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Thread: How Long Does a Spinal Cord Remain Swollen?

  1. #1

    How Long Does a Spinal Cord Remain Swollen?

    After injury and decompression surgery, my neurosurg said the spinal cord remains swollen for a period of no more than two weeks.

    My SCI doc said that the spinal cord typically swells for up to a year after injury.

    Which is actually accurate?

  2. #2
    I've been curious about this too. I once researched "spinal shock". Some doctors claim it doesn't exist at all! Famous doctors have written papers and been paid to express that opinion that they came up with from somewhere.

    Well, it that were true, why could I move nothing from my armpits down post sci, one toe post-surgery, and now have about 60% of my left side and 40% of my right side that returned ever so slowly? About a month or 2 post-sci stuff started coming back, it came fast for 6 to 9 months, more slowly as time went by for 2 years or so.

    If there was no swelling, there would be no reason to give methylprednisolone.

    From talking to other SCI's and the techs in rehab, I think it lasts 6 to 12 months.

    I don't know why doctors deny it.

    My mom had a stroke in 83, her brain swelled, they had to cut out a bit of it so it wouldn't kill her. Everybody knows tissue death in the brain causes swelling. I don't know why they deny it in SCI.

    I've learned my best bet is to ask other people that have been through it. Doctors believe what they were taught, or whatever the popular notion of the time might be. WE have been in these bodies and we know what's up. It makes me mad because we pay our doctors for their knowledge but have to do our own research to know what to expect. Carecure is important for this reason, I believe.

    Sorry for the rant. Pet peeve.

  3. #3
    Thanks Bethny for the info. I see your point. My neurosurgeon just totally dismissed the notion of any swelling beyond the two weeks I was in ICU and I was on the steroid protocol for 48 hours in Spetember of 05. My SCI doc said this was done to prevent any secondary damage from swelling.

    I had a second surgery in November of 05 to drain fluid which had built up along the cord and always wondered if this had an impact on additional swelling. I have already been decompressed and was curious to know if spinal swelling was keeping me from getting additional return. Someone said that there is a difference between spinal shock and spinal swelling. Are they not the same?

  4. #4
    I use the term "spinal shock" for the temporary loss of function caused by the swelling. Seemed to me to take a year to wear off.

    I guess some might use it to refer to "stingers", as in football where somebody gets paralyzed for an hour or so.

  5. #5
    Apparently, if things return they will do so all in one take as opposed to gradually--so I understand. I am attempting to be optimistc in the hope that more things will pop up in the coming months if my cord is still puffy. I can contract only muscle fibers in my legs voluntarily so far. My SCI doc advised that extensive therapy won't assist in bringing things back, but will help in making naturally returned functions stronger. Don't know if that is true or not, but I do know that the increase in leg spasms and tone are starting to get crazy. Some therapists and nurses said this was a sign of more recovery. Not too sure about that.

  6. #6
    Did your doctor tell you things would return (if they did) at one whack? I have never heard of that happening. Occasionally you'll get a little burst, then go back to the same old slow slow progress. Recently Cali was able to suddenly move her thumb, sometimes that happens for some reason.

    I don't know about extensive therapy merely strengthening what already came back, but it makes sense to me. In rehab I was told to view the next 2 years as a window of opportunity, so I did. I was pedal to the metal therapy. Eventually, though, your insurance company cuts you loose.

    I always tell people, re heavy duty therapy early on-It may not work. But if you don't try, it definitely won't.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Wheelieboy
    After injury and decompression surgery, my neurosurg said the spinal cord remains swollen for a period of no more than two weeks.

    My SCI doc said that the spinal cord typically swells for up to a year after injury.

    Which is actually accurate?

    I agree with your neurosurgeon. The edema in the spinal cord peaks at 48-72 hours and then subsides, unless there is continuing damage. This can be visualized by the blockade of dye passage across the injury site when you put contrast dye into the intrathecal space above and below the injury site and watch the dye.

    I also agree with your SCI doctor who is more use to seeing MRI scans that usually show increased water content in the spinal cord (as manifested by increased MR signal) for up to a year or more after injury. However, the increased water content may not causing significant swelling of the cord.


  8. #8
    Thanks for the explanation and clarification Doctor Wise. I had some pretty major damage with a burst compression at T6, and fluid build-up but the doctors and therapists hinted towards some form of substantial recovery in 2007 possibly, but there was no elaboration. I assumed it was based upon additional swelling subsiding, but was not sure.

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