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Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2007 Mar;88(3 Suppl 1):S55-61.

Spinal cord injury medicine. 2. Acute care management of traumatic and nontraumatic injury.

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Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN 55905, USA. <>

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  • Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2007 Aug;88(8):1083-5.


This self-directed learning module highlights the basic acute care management of traumatic and nontraumatic spinal cord injury (SCI). It is part of the chapter on SCI medicine in the Self-Directed Physiatric Education Program for practitioners and trainees in physical medicine and rehabilitation. Acute traumatic SCI is optimally managed in a level 1 trauma center. Decompression of the neural elements, stabilization of the spine, and maintenance of tissue perfusion are fundamental to optimizing outcomes. SCI patients are at high risk of pressure ulcers, venous thromboembolism, stress ulceration, bowel impaction, dysphagia, and pulmonary complications. Physiatric interventions are needed to prevent these complications. Prognostication of neurologic outcome based on early examination is an important skill to aid in creating a rehabilitation plan and to test for efficacy of early interventions. Nontraumatic SCI is an increasing population in rehabilitation centers. Establishing a diagnosis and treatment plan is essential, in conjunction with prevention of complications and early physiatric intervention.


(a) To describe the diagnostic evaluation of traumatic and nontraumatic spinal cord injuries and (b) to summarize the medical, surgical, and physiatric interventions during acute hospitalization for these injuries.

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