Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine have uncovered a new and valuable link between people who suffer from a spinal cord injury, and then develop brain damage as a result. The study has found that “spinal cord injuries (SCI) can cause widespread and sustained brain inflammation that leads to progressive loss of nerve cells, with associated cognitive problems and depression.”

The professor and neurobiologist Alan Faden, MD led the initial study, claiming that little research has been conducted about the effects of spinal cord injuries on the brain. In this instance, they have focused on isolated spinal cord injuries; they have also found that certain drugs could prevent the brain damage injuries that may arise after a spinal cord injury.

More research will need to be conducted before doctors and scientists can make any new decisions about future treatments or medications, but this study is a step in the right direction.

The long-term effects of brain damage

When most people think of the words “brain damage,” they do not realize that different injuries manifest in different ways. Brain swelling and inflammation, if left untreated, can lead to:

  • Cognitive impairment, such as forgetting the words for certain items
  • Motor skill and mobility impairment, such as losing the ability to walk unimpeded, or “forgetting” how to write
  • Behavioral changes, most commonly depression
  • Memory loss

Some people may present with very few symptoms, whereas others may present with many. Furthermore, how quickly the inflammation is diagnosed and treated could determine whether or not the side effects are permanent or reversible. For people who have been in a serous car accident, or workers who have fallen from a height, the immediate concern has always been to look at the spinal cord alone in the hopes of stopping any serious, permanent damage. By making the link between this type of spinal cord injury and, for example, memory loss, doctors may be able to diagnose and treat patients more quickly. Even more important, they may be able to avoid any permanent damage at all by looking to the brain right after a patient presents with a spinal injury.

If you or a loved one has suffered because of a spinal cord injury, please contact our office to discuss your story.