Acute treatment options for spinal cord injury - Abstract

OPINION STATEMENT: Most treatment options for acute traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) are directed at minimizing progression of the initial injury and preventing secondary injury. Failure to adhere to certain guiding principles can be detrimental to the long-term neurologic and functional outcome of these patients. Therapy for the hyperacute phase of traumatic SCI focuses on stabilizing vital signs and follows the Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) algorithm for ensuring stability of airway, breathing and circulation, and disability (neurologic evaluation)-with spinal stabilization-and exposure. Spinal stabilization, with cervical collars and long backboards, is used to prevent movement of a potentially unstable spinal column injury to prevent further injury to the spinal cord and nerve roots, especially during prehospital transport. Surgery to stabilize the spine is undertaken after life-threatening injuries (hemorrhage, evacuation of intracranial hemorrhage, acute vascular compromise) are addressed. Intensive care unit (ICU) admission is to be considered for all patients with high SCI or hemodynamic instability, as well as those with other injuries that independently warrant ICU admission. Avoidance of hypotension and hypoxia may minimize secondary neurologic injury. Elevating the mean arterial pressure above 85 mmHg for 7 days should be considered, to allow for spinal cord perfusion. The use of intravenous steroids (methylprednisolone) is controversial. Early tracheostomy in patients with lesions above C5 may reduce the number of ventilator days and the incidence of ventilator-associated pneumonia. Select patients may benefit from the placement of a diaphragmatic pacer. Aggressive measures, including CoughAssist and Intermittent Positive Pressure Breaths (IPPB), should be used to maintain lung recruitment and aid in the mobilization of secretions. Some patients with high SCI who are dependent on mechanical ventilation can eventually be liberated from the ventilator with consistent efforts from both the patient and the caregiver, along with some patience. Intermittent catheterization by the patient or a caregiver may be associated with a lower incidence of urinary tract infections, compared with an in-dwelling urinary catheter. Early mobilization of patients and a multidisciplinary approach (including respiratory therapists, nutritional experts, physical therapists, and occupational therapists) can streamline care and may improve long-term outcomes. A number of investigational drugs and therapies offer hope of neurologic recovery for some patients.

Written by:
Markandaya M, Stein DM, Menaker J. Are you the author?
Department of Neurology, Neuro/Trauma Critical Care, University of Maryland Medical Center/R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center, 22 S Greene Street S4D13, Baltimore, MD, 21201, USA, .

Reference: Curr Treat Options Neurol. 2012 Feb 3. [Epub ahead of print]
doi: 10.1007/s11940-011-0162-5

PubMed Abstract
PMID: 22302639