Sunday, September 09, 2007

Time Matters After Spinal Cory Injuries

About 300,000 Americans are in wheelchairs due to spinal cord injuries. Many patients will recover at least some function in their fingers, toes, hands and limbs after injury, but new research shows there may be a way for them to recover even more.

Michael Fehlings, M.D., Ph.D., neurosurgeon at Toronto Western Hospital in Canada, says the initial impact doesn’t cause all the damage in spinal cord injuries. There are also secondary injuries that come from inflammation and compression on the spine. "This involves the death of nerve cells that might otherwise be initially potentially alive or salvageable after the initial injury," Dr. Fehlings said.

Surgery is often performed to fix the spine and relieve pressure. Dr. Fehlings is currently leading a study to determine the best time to perform that surgery. "It appears that earlier is indeed better than later," he added.

One study shows the most common time for surgery is five days or more after an injury. But Dr. Fehlings' research shows surgery within 24 hours can prevent more severe damage and lead to better outcomes.

"We are seeing that some people are walking away from injuries where they would normally not be able to walk away," Dr. Fehlings said.