chapter  Chapter 17
35 Pages

Life Care Planning for Spinal Cord Injury

ByDavid J. Altman, Dan M. Bagwell

Injuries to the spinal cord are among the most devastating of all neurological conditions, with profound, multidimensional consequences for both the individual and the family. Spinal cord injuries usually occur during peak productivity years and survivors experience permanent disabilities that often impact employment opportunities. Injuries to the spinal cord cause temporary or permanent changes in motor, sensory, and/or autonomic function. The spinal cord is a critical component of the autonomic nervous system, and injury can often lead to changes in the quality of hair, skin, and nails, as well as the ability of the individual to response to temperature changes. One of the most serious complications is autonomic dysreflexia, a syndrome associated with spinal cord lesions at or above the T6 level. Gastrointestinal problems occur in 27–62% of individuals with spinal cord injuries, and symptoms include constipation, abdominal pain, incontinence, nausea, and diarrhea. Genitourinary dysfunction represents one of the most profound changes that occur in spinal cord injury.