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Spinal Cord Injury Prognosis: What Are Your Chances of Recovering?

determining spinal cord injury prognosis

Spinal cord injury prognosis varies from case to case. Each SCI is unique, and recovery from it will depend on a variety of different factors.

This article will explain what factors affect one’s chances of recovery after spinal cord injury and why.

5 Factors That Affect Spinal Cord Injury Prognosis

Let’s go over 5 factors that can significantly affect your prognosis after SCI.

1) Severity of Injury

complete vs incomplete spinal cord injury prognosis

One of the most important factors that affect spinal cord injury prognosis is the severity of your injury.

The spinal cord relays information between the brain and body. After a spinal cord injury, information cannot pass the site of injury, which results in paralysis or weakness.

A spinal cord injury can be complete or incomplete. A complete injury is when there are no spared neural pathways connecting the brain and body below your level of injury, because the spinal cord has been completely transected by the lesion.

In contrast, an incomplete spinal cord injury is when some neural pathways between the brain and body below your level of injury are left intact. This means that the spinal cord was only partially transected by the lesion.

Your chances of recovery after SCI are highly dependent on how many spared neural pathways you have. This is because damaged neurons in the brain and spinal cord cannot regenerate.

Spared neural pathways are able to utilize neuroplasticity (the spinal cord’s ability to rewire itself) and recover functions affected by SCI.

The more spared neural pathways there are, the greater the recovery potential.

2) Level of Injury

The level of your spinal cord injury also plays a very important role in determining your recovery outlook.

The higher your level of injury is, the more areas of your body will be affected.

For example, if your spinal cord injury occurs around your neck, paralysis or weakness can affect the arms, trunk, and legs. If your spinal cord occurs in your mid to lower back, you may only experience paralysis/weakness in your legs.

Therefore, the higher your level of injury, the more rehabilitation will be required. Each function needs to be relearned through task-specific practice.

3) How Long It Takes to Stabilize the Spinal Cord

chances of recovery spinal cord injury

It’s essential to get immediate medical attention in order to stabilize the spinal cord and reduce secondary damage.

Secondary damage can include swelling and inflammation, which can cause additional damage and reduce blood flow in the spinal cord.

If not managed, these processes can result in more widespread sensorimotor impairments.

4) How Intensely You Pursue Rehabilitation

sci prognosis

High-intensity rehabilitative training is the best way to promote neuroplasticity.

Thousands of repetitions are necessary to stimulate adaptive changes.

The harder, longer, and more frequently you perform repetitions, the quicker neurological rewiring will occur.

5) Amount of Time Since Injury

The amount of time since your spinal cord injury can also be a good indicator of recovery outlook.

Most patients see the most recovery within the first year after their spinal cord injury.

This is because after a traumatic event like SCI, the spinal cord experiences temporarily heightened levels of plasticity.

While recovery can still occur after the first year, it typically occurs at a slower rate.

Recovery is possible even years following your injury, but you need to put in the effort and perform the repetitions necessary to stimulate neuroplasticity.

Understanding Spinal Cord Injury Prognosis

spinal cord injury prognosis factors

Although many things about your spinal cord injury are out of your control, the way you tackle rehabilitation is completely up to you.

The more aggressively you approach your therapies, the more you stimulate neural changes in the spinal cord.

While results may not come quickly or easily, every effort you make will take you another step closer to your recovery goals.

image credits: © Yalcin/kzenon

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