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Spinal injury

Skeletal spine
Vertebra, cervical (neck)

Definition

The spinal cord contains the nerves that carry messages between your brain and the rest of the body. The cord passes through your neck and back. A spinal cord injury is very serious because it can cause loss of movement (paralysis) and sensation below the site of the injury.

Alternative Names

Spinal cord injury; SCI

Causes

A spinal cord injury may be caused by incidents such as:

Symptoms

Symptoms of a spinal cord injury may include any of the following:

First Aid

Never move anyone who you think may have a spinal injury, unless it is absolutely necessary. For example, if you need to get the person out of a burning car, or help them to breathe.

Keep the person completely still and safe until medical help arrives.

If the person is not alert or responding to you:

DO NOT roll the person over unless the person is vomiting or choking on blood, or you need to check for breathing.

If you need to roll the person over:

Do Not

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your local emergency number (such as 911) if you think someone has a spinal cord injury. Do not move the person unless there is urgent danger.

Prevention

The following may lower your risk for spinal injury:

References

American Red Cross. First Aid/CPR/AED Participant's Manual. Dallas, TX: American Red Cross; 2016.

Kaji AH, Hockberger RS. Spinal injuries. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 36.


Review Date: 4/21/2019
Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.