Spinal cord injuries are some of the most devastating injuries that human beings can suffer and live -- and the consequences can last a lifetime. One of the biggest problems victims face is the neurodegenerative changes they end up suffering in future years. Those changes can end up weakening their muscles, creating more problems for victims as time passes. Unfortunately, how bad those changes will eventually be has always been a matter of guesswork.
Now, doctors may be able to better predict a patient's long-term recovery -- and the type of neurodegenerative problems they may face -- thanks to a recent study.
The study, which looked at patients with spinal cord injuries over a two-year period after they suffered their injuries, found that the neurodegeneration suffered by a victim within six months is key to the victim's future prognosis.
Using information from the study, doctors can discern the neurodegeneration a patient is experiencing -- and develop a predictive trajectory that can both show how well a patient is likely to recover from treatment and how much future degeneration they'll experience at the same time.
While more research needs to be done, this study has significant medical and legal implications. It can make it possible for medical professionals to better plan a course of treatment for victims of spinal cord injuries. It can also allow attorneys who represent the victims of spinal cord injuries to better predict the future needs of their clients.
According to the study, the early progress a patient shows in recovery due to physical therapy and other treatments often hides the underlying neurodegeneration -- which eventually outpaces the recovery.
That could be problematic if a patient mistakes his or her initial progress in therapy as a sign that he or she will recover more than possible. He or she could undervalue the true extent of future physical changes and losses. A better predictive model of a patient's real recovery can be key when it comes time to decide how much compensation the victim of negligent injuries may need to meet his or her needs in the future.
Source: ScienceDaily, "Recovery from spinal cord injuries can be predicted," University of Zurich, March 07, 2018