Quick Decompression Aids Spinal Injury Recovery

MONDAY April 28, 2008 -- Patients having decompression surgery within 24 hours of a cervical spinal cord injury may have a better outcome than those who have the procedure later, according to new research.

Surgical decompression of the spinal cord involves the removal of various tissue or bone fragments that are being squeezed and comprising the spinal cord. While commonly done after an injury occurs, the timing of the procedure varies widely.

The study looked at 170 patients with cervical spinal cord injuries, graded as A (most several neurological involvement) to D (least severe), who underwent decompression surgery.

Six months after the surgery, 24 percent of the patients who had the surgery within 24 hours showed two-grade or greater improvement in their condition compared with only 4 percent in the group that had the surgery more than a day later.

"The initial results suggest that decompression within 24 hours of injury may be associated with improved neurological recovery at one-year follow-up. However, further recruitment of patients with long-term follow-up is necessary to validate these promising results," study author Michael Fehlings, head of the Krembil Neuroscience Center at the University Health Network in Toronto, said in a prepared statement.

Fehlings was expected to present the findings in Chicago April 28 at the annual meeting of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.

Every year, almost 12,000 people in the United States and Canada, mostly young adults, sustain a spinal cord injury. Although surgery, such as decompression, can help, these procedures often do not dramatically improve overall recovery and outcome.

"This is an area of medicine that has not seen tremendous scientific advances, so there remains an urgent need to improve upon current interventions to help restore neurological function in patients with acute (spinal cord injury)," said Fehlings, who is also professor of neurosurgery at the University of Toronto.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about spinal cord injuries.

Posted: April 2008


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