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Homage to the Pioneers and Their Treatment of Spinal Cord Injury
By Eelco F. M. Wijdicks MD, PhD
24 January 2020
The history of the management of traumatic spinal cord injury (TSCI) goes a long way back and is closely connected to wartime [
]. Initially, garrison military hospitals tended to the wounded, but medical centers quickly became involved. In the USA, the Civil War introduced spine trauma to the neurologist. Although not directly involved with patient care, the neurologist and scientist Brown–Séquard, for example, pointed out that spinal cord compression by bony fragments could cause more damage than direct injury of the spine. He also noted wounds could lead to tetanus, for which neurologists were often consulted [
]. Although the syndrome that bears his eponym may occur in traumatic spine injury, he linked his constellation of findings to a lateral cord lesion in both patients and animal experiments. In Europe, care of the spinal cord advanced after both World Wars. A number of European centers were suddenly forced to take care of large numbers of injured soldiers. In the USA, spinal cord injuries were directed to Turner’s Lane General Hospital in Philadelphia under the care of the neurologist Silas Weir Mitchell and surgeons George Morehouse and William Keen.
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