Treating Traumatic Spine Injuries: April 27, 2017
Life changing accidents happen every day. When the unexpected happens, that’s when Lee Health neurosurgeons like Dr. Dean Lin respond. “We see a ton of accidents from people slipping on ladders and subsequently they will fall, have a bad fracture, frequently they’re paralyzed and they need emergency surgery.”
Dr. Lin says car crashes and falls are the most common accidents he sees in the trauma department. These accidents can result in spinal cord injuries that typically need to be monitored within the first 24 to 48 hours. “Really it’s important that you see what their neurologic status is, as in what are they moving, what are they not moving, more importantly. What should they be moving? Based on that, it determines how urgent the situation is,” said Dr. Lin.
If a patient injures the spinal cord near the middle of the back, they may be unable to move their legs. If the injury is to their neck, they may be unable to move their arms and legs. “Frequently they have what we call an incomplete injury, and that’s where someone is not moving anything at all to begin with, but over the course of the next few hours they develop some function in which case a lot of times we’ll wait a while before surgery,” said Dr. Lin.
Almost 80 percent of patients that arrive with fractures don’t require surgery. They’re typically monitored with a brace or collar. But there are times where surgery is the only option. “The goal for surgery is really to stabilize the spine because when they have a broken bone in their neck, or their lower back, or their middle back , then really no one can get them up and sitting around because their back is not stable,” said Dr. Lin.
Stabilizing the spine will typically help get the patient up and moving and into therapy, giving them the best possible outcome after an accident.