By Christopher D. Shank
, Department of Neurosurgery, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, USA Beverly C. Walters
, Department of Neurosurgery, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, USAMark N. Hadley
, Department of Neurosurgery, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, USA
Neurocritical Care, , Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 261–271
Acute traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) affects more than 250,000 people in the USA, with approximately 17,000 new cases each year. It continues to be one of the most significant causes of trauma-related morbidity and mortality. Despite the introduction of primary injury prevention education and vehicle safety devices, such as airbags and passive restraint systems, traumatic SCI continues to have a substantial impact on the healthcare system. Over the last three decades, there have been considerable advancements in the management of patients with traumatic SCI. The advent of spinal instrumentation has improved the surgical treatment of spinal fractures and the ability to manage SCI patients with spinal mechanical instability. There has been a concomitant improvement in the nonsurgical care of these patients with particular focus on care delivered in the pre-hospital, emergency room, and intensive care unit (ICU) settings. This article represents an overview of the critical aspects of contemporary traumatic SCI care and notes areas where further research inquiries are needed. We review the pre-hospital management of a patient with an acute SCI, including triage, immobilization, and transportation. Upon arrival to the definitive treatment facility, we review initial evaluation and management steps, including initial neurological assessment, radiographic assessment, cervical collar clearance protocols, and closed reduction of cervical fracture/dislocation injuries. Finally, we review ICU issues including airway, hemodynamic, and pharmacological management, as well as future directions of care.