Acute Spinal Cord Injury, Part II: Contemporary Pharmacotherapy
Spinal cord injury (SCI) remains a common and devastating problem of modern society. Through an understanding of underlying pathophysiologic mechanisms involved in the evolution of SCI, treatments aimed at ameliorating neural damage may be developed. The possible pharmacologic treatments for acute spinal cord injury are herein reviewed. Myriad treatment modalities, including corticosteroids, 21-aminosteroids, opioid receptor antagonists, gangliosides, thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) and TRH analogs, antioxidants and free radical scavengers, calcium channel blockers, magnesium replacement therapy, sodium channel blockers, N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor antagonists, α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazole-4-propionic acid–kainate receptor antagonists, modulators of arachadonic acid metabolism, neurotrophic growth factors, serotonin antagonists, antibodies against inhibitors of axonal regeneration, potassium channel blockers (4-aminopyridine), paclitaxel, clenbuterol, progesterone, gabexate mesylate, activated protein C, caspase inhibitors, tacrolimus, antibodies against adhesion molecules, and other immunomodulatory therapy have been studied to date. Although most of these agents have shown promise, only one agent, methylprednisolone, has been shown to provide benefit in large clinical trials. Given these data, many individuals consider methylprednisolone to be the standard of care for the treatment of acute SCI. However, this has not been established definitively, and questions pertaining to methodology have emerged regarding the National Acute Spinal Cord Injury Study trials that provided these conclusions. Additionally, the clinical significance (in contrast to statistical significance) of recovery after methylprednisolone treatment is unclear and must be considered in light of the potential adverse effects of such treatment. This first decade of the new millennium, now touted as the Decade of the Spine, will hopefully witness the emergence of universal and efficacious pharmacologic therapy and ultimately a cure for SCI.