Roughly 12,500 people are diagnosed with a spinal cord injury every year. Dr. Mark Eskander, a spine surgeon at Delaware Orthopaedic Specialists, offered insights on what spinal cord injury survivors can expect when they explore modern treatment options.
I heard about a breakthrough treatment. Will it heal my spinal cord injury?
Technology in this industry is evolving constantly, but not all of the ‘groundbreaking’ treatments featured in popular news will apply to spinal cord injury patients with permanent damage. Mainstream media is not always in touch with medical reality. However, there is incredible research being conducted right now in this space.
Are new treatments being researched?
Aggressive cooling may help to reduce secondary acute injuries, but this path is a distant consideration. Stem cells may one day provide an avenue for spinal regeneration. There is also extensive research into advanced prosthesis technology that may provide a return to functionality.
Where can I find credible spinal cord injury information?
How do I begin the SCI treatment process?
New procedures are not the right fit for everyone, so a frank discussion is a vital part of the process. Approach someone who you can trust on your care team, whether it’s a physical therapist or a spinal surgeon. Do your own research online to supplement the process. Some of my patients will discuss and share their personal experiences with others to illuminate their treatment options; that kind of personal connection can supplement your decision-making process.
I have had a lot of treatment setbacks. Should I give up?
Treatment and rehabilitation options have extremely positive outcomes for many. Improvement is always possible. Though the early diagnosis phase can be very laborious, it’s in your best interest to stay focused and positive with the help of your team.
How do I know if surgery is right for my injury?
Depending on your response to treatments like injection or physical therapy, your care team will choose whether or not to explore other options. If you’re not a candidate for newer procedures, you don’t need to lose hope: many different procedures, old and new, have their own merits for individual patient needs.
How can I mentally prepare for spinal surgery?
Always have realistic goals and expectations for surgery. Expecting to turn into your former self again is a classic setup for failure. Even if you are looking at improvement in the 80 to 90 percent range, you need to remain realistic. You can be dissatisfied if you go in to a treatment expecting a full recovery.
What does the recovery process look like after spinal cord injury surgery?
Spinal cord injury surgery comes with an intensive follow-up and care team collaboration process. You’re looking at ICU stays, possibly multiple surgeries, rehabilitation, specialized spinal cord injury physical therapy, home care with therapists, medical devices to manage day-to-day and, potentially, new devices to accommodate mobility needs.
Will these treatments be expensive?
Treatment can be a huge cost burden for spinal cord injury patients. Therapies and experimental trials can be both expensive and time-consuming. However, just because there’s a cost burden does not mean that treatment is not worth it.
Will I be able to live a happy life post-injury?
Spinal cord injury patients can live happy and meaningful lives post-injury, without a doubt. These patients have been some of the nicest and most outspoken community members I’ve met in my practice. Modern technology and mobility equipment can improve quality of life and family ties can remain strong after injury.
What do you tell your patients when they prepare for treatment?
A positive mindset is huge. Have hope and get the resources to make it happen. Adjust your expectations for what you can and cannot hope to achieve, but face these realities early on, then start focusing on the positives.