Category: Spinal Cord Injury | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: May 24, 2016
The time between when a spinal cord injury occurs and when the patient makes it in front of a spinal surgeon is crucial. The longer the injury goes unassessed, the more nerve damage that can occur. Paramedics and first-responders do everything in their power to get a person to a doctor as soon as possible, but sometimes injuries occur far away from a medical center. And while we can’t stop time, researchers in Western Australia are seeing if they can scientifically slow it down.
Your Spine After an Accident
University of Western Australia Professor Sarah Dunlop explained just how much damage your spinal cord incurs per minute after an accident.
“After an injury the spinal cord will lose about 2 million neurons, 14 billion synapses and about 12 kilometres of fibers every minute and it turns the spinal cord to mush,” said Dunlop. “What we need to do is stop that damage and get the patient to hospital as fast as possible.
One way Dunlop proposes to do that is by cooling the injured patient’s body temperature through the use of intravenous ice cold saline. By lowering a person’s body temperature, researchers believe they can slow down the damage and ultimately reduce the severity of spinal cord injuries.
Every Second Matters
Craig Parsons became a quadriplegic at 16 after a motorcycle accident. He noted that while the cooling solution may not be able to prevent a person from becoming a quadriplegic, any damage prevention is huge during a severe spinal cord injury.
“Having a spinal injury, being a quadriplegic, every little bit of muscle or use of your body that you can get makes a big difference,” said Parsons. “It’s not necessarily just the difference between being in a wheelchair or walking. For instance, I’ve had hand surgery which I might not have had to have, certain parts of your bladder and bowels might work and they make quite substantial changes of quality of life so I think it will be amazing.”
Western Australia’s government recently pledged $1 million to researching the benefits of intravenous cooling solutions for patients who have suffered a severe spinal cord injury, and should the research prove beneficial, don’t be surprised if similar measures are undertaken here in the United States.