A spinal cord injury (SCI) is something that changes your life. Following a SCI it is important to educate yourself, your family, your friends, and/or your personal caretaker. There are many important things that you should know about life following an injury including expected functional outcomes, changes in your personal care, and an increased risk for other mental and physical conditions. While recovering from your SCI you were probably told so many new things that it is nearly impossible to remember them all. The purpose of this webpage is to be a resource to patients, their families, their friends, or whoever is responsible for taking care of them. This page includes; links for summaries of important documents about things you should know following a SCI prepared by Touchstone rehabilitations team of healthcare professionals, the full documents of what you should know, and clinical practice guidelines that you can provide to your health care providers whom may not be as familiar with certain conditions specific to the SCI population. All of the information on this page is from the consortium of spinal cord injuries, is peer reviewed, and reliable. However, there is always new information and advances regarding SCI and the more educated you are about your condition the more empowered you become to make sure that you are receiving the care that you need and deserve.
Depending on the level and severity of a SCI, as well as other important factors, every individual who experiences a SCI may have a different functional outcome. What we mean when we say functional outcomes is what a functional activities of daily living that an individual may need complete assistance with, some assistance with, or will be able to do completely for themselves. If an individual’s SCI is incomplete than the expected outcomes are much more variable. The links below provide important information about what you can expect for functional outcomes following various levels of a complete SCI. These outcomes are based on what is “expected”. In other words, they are not what every person will achieve and they should now be seen as the maximum potential that a person with that level of injury has.
Clinical Guidelines for Expected Outcomes
A SCI can put an individual at life-long risk for developing pressure ulcers. A pressure ulcer is a lesion, wound or injury, usually caused by unrelieved pressure that results in damage of underlying tissue. Following a SCI an individual is at an increased risk for developing pressure ulcers. Below are links for a summary of the most important information regarding pressure ulcers, the full document from the consortium of SCI of what you should know about pressure ulcers, and the clinical practice guidelines for your health care professionals. The summary describes what pressure ulcers are and some of the most important information you need to know for prevention and the appropriate management of them. However, all of the information in these documents is very important!
Depression can be caused by many things. These include the effects of SCI, life events, personal circumstances, other medical conditions, some medications, alcohol, and drugs. Depression is treatable, but if it is untreated it can have a serious effect on an individual’s emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical health. It is important to recognize the warning signs of depression and to seek help as soon as possible. Below are links for a summary of the most important information regarding depression and warning signs, the full document from the consortium of SCI of what you should know about depression, and the clinical practice guidelines for your healthcare professionals.
Bladder & Bowel Function
Depending on the level and severity of SCI it can have significant effects on your bowel and bladder. Neurogenic bowel and bladder are the clinical names for the conditions people who have experienced a SCI frequently suffer from. These are sometimes very difficult things for individuals to talk about with others so it is important for them to have a lot of information in order to decrease as much of the discomfort and anxiety with dealing with these issues. A bowel and bladder care program are very important following a SCI and every individual will need to develop one that is specific to them. It is important that developing these bowel and bladder care programs should be done with yourself, your healthcare professions, and your personal care givers. It is common that an individual may need at least some assistance with their bowel and bladder care. Because of that it is important that whoever is helping take care of them have sufficient information as well. Below are links for a summary of important information regarding bowel care following a SCI, the full document of what you should know about bowel care from the consortium of SCI, and the full clinical guidelines for bowel and bladder management for your healthcare professionals.
Following SCI at or above the level of the 6th thoracic vertebrae individuals are at risk for a condition known as autonomic dysreflexia. Autonomic dysreflexia is an abnormal response to a problem somewhere in your body. It’s most commonly caused by a bladder or bowel problem, but can have many other causes. Autonomic dysreflexia is an emergency condition that needs immediate attention! Below are links for a summary of important information about what autonomic dysreflexia is and how to manage it, the full document from the consortium of SCI about what you should know about autonomic dysreflexia, and the clinical practice guidelines for your healthcare professionals.
Also, included below are links for the clinical practice guidelines for respiratory management following a SCI, upper limb function, and thromboembolism prevention. These topics are quite extensive and will vary for each patient who has experienced a SCI. However, this information is still extremely important, especially if your healthcare professionals are not as familiar with the SCI population.