Spinal Cord Injury in the Geriatric Population: Risk Factors, Treatment Options, and Long-Term Management

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Abstract

Spinal cord injuries (SCIs) are sustained by more than 12 500 patients per year in the United States and more globally. The SCIs disproportionately affect the elderly, especially men. Approximately 60% of these injuries are sustained traumatically through falls, but nontraumatic causes including infections, tumors, and medication-related epidural bleeding have also been documented. Preexisting conditions such as ankylosing spondylitis and diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis can render the spine stiff and are risk factors as well as cervical spondylosis and ensuing cervical stenosis. Treatment options vary depending on the severity, location, and complexity of the injury. Surgical management has been growing in popularity over the years and remains an option as it helps reduce spinal cord compression and alleviate pain. Elevating mean arterial pressures to prevent spinal cord ischemia and avoiding the second hit of SCI have become more common as opposed to high dose steroids. Ongoing clinical trials with pharmacological agents such as minocycline and riluzole have shown early, promising results in their ability to reduce cellular damage and facilitate recovery. Though SCI can be life changing, the available treatment options have aimed to reduce pain and minimize complications and maintain quality of life alongside rehabilitative services.

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