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Spinal cord injury occurs through various countries throughout the world with an annual incidence of 15 to 40 cases per million, with the causes of these injuries ranging from motor vehicle accidents and community violence to recreational activities and workplace-related injuries. Survival has improved along with a greater appreciation of patterns of presentation, survival, and complications. Despite much work having been done, the only treatment to date known to ameliorate neurologic dysfunction that occurs at or below the level of neurologic injury has been intravenous methylprednisolone therapy. Much research over the past 30 to 40 years has focused on elucidating the mechanisms of spinal cord injury, with the complex pathophysiologic processes slowly being unraveled. With a greater understanding of both primary and secondary mechanisms of injury, the roles of calcium, free radicals, sodium, excitatory amino acids, vascular mediators, and apoptosis have been elucidated. This review examines the epidemiology, demographics, and pathophysiology of acute spinal cord injury.