A Brief History of Therapy for Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury

Jason Lifshutz, M.D.; Austin Colohan, M.D.

Disclosures

Neurosurg Focus. 2004;16(1) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

There are few more devastating injuries that afflict man than those associated with spinal cord injury (SCI). The economic, psychological, and social impact are encompassing and enormous to the individual and society. During the last several years, there has been a renewed interest in the study of SCI, with the hope of finding a cure. It is appropriate, then, to examine the efforts accomplished throughout medical history. With this retrospective view, potential avenues for future treatment become more apparent and clear. As in the past, the integration of basic science and clinical innovation will create the path toward progress for treatment of this disease.

The frog instantly dies when the spinal cord is pierced; and previous to this it lived without head, without heart or any bowels or intestines or skin; and here therefore it would seem lies the foundation of movement and life. Leonardo da Vinci.

There are few more devastating injuries that afflict humans than those associated with SCI. From economic, psychological, and social perspectives, the impact of SCI is encompassing and enormous.[1,6] Within the last several years, there has been a renewed interest in the study and treatment of these injuries, with the hope of finding a cure. Current research into SCI includes endeavors in both the basic science (molecular and genetic technologies), and clinical arenas (pharmacological and surgical interventions). This is clearly a very exciting time in the treatment of this devastating injury. Because of this renewed interest, it is both appropriate and timely to step back and examine the work and efforts that have preceded us in this field of study. With the lessons gleaned from the past, potential avenues toward future treatment may become more apparent and clear. As the famous surgeon Bilroth stated, "Only the man who is familiar with the art and science of the past is competent to aid in its progress in the future."[14]

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