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Spinal Cord and Head Injury


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Your brain controls all functions of your body, including movements, thoughts, and automatic functions like breathing and blood pressure.

The brain sends and receives messages to and from the rest of your body through the spinal cord — a bundle of nerves that runs through your spine in your back and up to your brain. An injury to the brain or spinal cord can seriously affect the way your body and mind work.

At the University of Miami Health System, expert neurosurgeons provide advanced treatment for these serious injuries, restoring as much function as possible and improving your quality of life. We, along with The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, offer groundbreaking clinical trials and studies.

What Are Spinal Cord and Head Injuries?

Injuries to the brain, called traumatic brain injuries, occur when your brain moves around and hits your skull due to impact. It can be a more mild injury, such as a concussion, or severe injury that causes your brain to bleed. These injuries, if not treated quickly, can be life-threatening. They can also cause changes in personality, trouble thinking, memory loss, or paralysis.

Spinal cord injuries can also be minor, such as a bruise on the nerves that causes temporary problems, or severe, such as a complete separation (transection) of the nerves. Depending on where the spinal cord is transected, you may experience different symptoms, such as paralysis, numbness, or problems with functions like digestion or breathing.

Both spinal cord and brain injuries can be caused by traumatic accidents, including:

  • Assault
  • Car accidents
  • Falls
  • Gunshot wounds
  • Sports injuries

Who is a Candidate?

Any patient with a spinal cord or traumatic brain injury — whether minor or severe — can seek care at the University of Miami Health System. We may provide emergency care at the time you experience an injury or follow-up care to help injuries heal or restore function.

What to Expect

Our neurosurgeons use advanced imaging techniques to evaluate injuries. In emergency situations, the goal is to stop bleeding and reduce swelling as quickly as possible to prevent further injury to the brain or spinal cord.

For traumatic brain injuries, emergency care may include:

  • Trephination (drilling a hole through the skull) to suction off blood and reduce pressure on the brain
  • Craniotomy to temporarily remove part of the skull, reduce pressure on the brain and access the injured part of the brain
  • Injectable medicines to help slow or stop bleeding quickly

If you have a spinal cord injury, emergency care may include:

  • Surgery to remove fluid, foreign objects, bone fragments, or other objects that could be pressing on nerves
  • Induced hypothermia (low body temperature_ to prevent inflammation and reduce nerve damage
  • Surgery to stabilize your vertebrae with rods or other methods

As you recover from injuries, our neurosurgeons can help you manage pain through nerve stimulation. With nerve stimulation, electrical signals are sent from a device into your spine. These signals can block nerve signals, relieving pain. Spine injections of steroids and pain medicines can also relieve pain and swelling.

After a spinal cord or brain injury, you will need physical therapy to help restore function. You may also need occupational therapy or speech therapy. These therapists use special exercises and strategies to help you build strength and regain the ability to do tasks you usually perform.

Our neurosurgeons also work closely with the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. With the help of this charitable organization, we conduct leading-edge research into spinal cord and brain injuries. You may be eligible for advanced clinical trial treatments that can help restore function and improve your quality of life after injury. These clinical trials may involve the use of stem cells, exercises, nutrition, medicines, or surgeries to improve the health of people who have a spinal cord or brain injury.

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