A spinal cord injury occurs when there is damage to the spinal cord either from trauma, loss of its normal blood supply, or compression from tumor or infection. The injuries may be of two types - complete or incomplete. In complete injuries the body ceases to function below the level of injury. In incomplete injuries there is some function remaining below the level of injury.
Surgery is performed for spinal cord injury to stabilize the spine. If the vertebrae are weakened from fracture, tumor or infection, they may not be capable of supporting the normal weight from the body and protecting the spinal cord. A combination of metal screws, rods and plates may be necessary to help hold the vertebrae together and stabilize them until the bones heal. After surgery it is critical that patients undergo a thorough rehabilitation program. This may include methods to help the patient maximize their function through physical and occupational therapy and the use of assistive devices.