By Dr Tony Setiobudi BMedSci, MBBS, MRCS, MMed (Ortho), FRCS (Ortho)
Paralysis is a very devastating medical problem. The nerves supplying the arms and legs stop working resulting inability to move. People who suffer from paralysis are longing to regain the ability to move. They are desperate and are willing to try anything that can improve the chance of moving or walking again.
The brain gives instruction to move. The instruction is delivered to the muscles through the spinal cord and the nerves. Any interruption in this pathway causes difficulty or inability to move.
There are medical problems that can cause paralysis:
- Spinal cord injury from spine fracture. The paralysis occurs immediately. But not all spine fractures cause spinal cord injury
- Spinal cord compression from tumor or infection. Rapid expanding spine tumor or infection can cause spinal cord to stop working.
- Spinal cord compression from degeneration. Spinal cord compression from spine degeneration alone rarely cause paralysis. But patients with spinal cord compression are prone to fall. Injury to the spinal cord can occur after a fall can can cause paralysis.
- Spinal cord compression from spontaneous bleeding in the spinal canal. People who are on blood thinning are prone to have spontaneous bleeding.
When paralysis has occurred, can it be treated with surgery?
When paralysis is caused by physical compression of the spinal cord, emergency surgery is required. This is to free up the spinal cord from compression and to stabilise the spine when there is fracture. The prognosis depends on how bad the spinal cord compression or injury is and how soon the surgery is done. Surgery needs to be done as soon as possible. There is a chance of getting better with surgery but it is not predictable in this case.
Is there any sign before paralysis occurs?
The sign of spinal cord compression are difficulty walking with unsteady gait, weakness and numbness in the hands or legs. Do not ignore this signs and symptoms. You need to see your doctor.
Does spinal cord compression need surgery?
Yes. spinal cord compression can only be treated with surgery. There is no other way. Surgery to free up the spinal cord before the paralysis has a much better outcome than if the surgery is done after paralysis has occurred.
If you have any inquiry about this problem, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Dr Tony Setiobudi is an Orthopaedic & Spine Surgeon at Mount Elizabeth Hospital (Orchard), Singapore. He treats bone, joint, muscle and ligament problems in adults and children. He has a special interest in nerve compression and spine problems such as back & neck pain, scoliosis, kyphosis, spine tumor & infection, spinal cord injury, osteoporosis fracture, spinal stenosis and slipped disc.