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Adv Tech Stand Neurosurg. 2012;38:29-56. doi: 10.1007/978-3-7091-0676-1_2.

Spinal cord injury and its treatment: current management and experimental perspectives.

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Department of Neurosurgery, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire, University of Liege, Liege, Belgium.


Clinical management of spinal cord injury (SCI) has significantly improved its general prognosis. However, to date, traumatic paraplegia and tetraplegia remain incurable, despite massive research efforts. Current management focuses on surgical stabilisation of the spine, intensive neurological rehabilitation, and the prevention and treatment of acute and chronic complications. Prevention remains the most efficient strategy and should be the main focus of public health efforts. Nevertheless, major advances in the understanding of the pathophysiological mechanisms of SCI open promising new therapeutic perspectives. Even if complete recovery remains elusive due to the complexity of spinal cord repair, a strategy combining different approaches may result in some degree of neurological improvement after SCI. Even slight neurological recovery can have high impact on the daily functioning of severely handicapped patients and, thus, result in significant improvements in quality of life.The main investigated strategies are: [1] initial neuroprotection, in order to decrease secondary injury to the spinal cord parenchyma after the initial insult; [2] spinal cord repair, in order to bridge the lesion site and reestablish the connection between the supraspinal centres and the deafferented cord segment below the lesion; and [3] re-training and enhancing plasticity of the central nervous system circuitry that was preserved or rebuilt after the injury.Now and in the future, treatment strategies that have both a convincing rationale and seen their efficacy confirmed reproducibly in the experimental setting must carefully be brought from bench to bedside. In order to obtain clinically significant results, their introduction into clinical research must be guided by scientific rigour, and their coordination must be rationally structured in a long-term perspective.

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