People who have suffered a spinal injury require immediate treatment to prevent further damage to the spinal cord. At NewYork-Presbyterian, our neurocritical care, neurology, and neurosurgery teams work quickly to stabilize patients with spinal injuries to avoid further trauma and maximize recovery. Patients usually begin rehabilitation within days of the injury, directed by our physiatrists (rehabilitation medicine physicians), and may continue at New York-Presbyterian's inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation facilities.
Two Comprehensive Spine Care Centers
Rehabilitation for spinal cord injuries is an integral part of the comprehensive care provided at our two renowned spine centers: The Spine Hospital at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center and Center for Comprehensive Spine Care at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. Specially trained trauma teams are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to treat the most severely injured patients and to start them on the road to recovery as soon as possible.
A United Team, Focused on Recovery
Our spinal cord injury rehabilitation teams help set short-term and long-term treatment goals for our patients and their family members. Physiatrists, neurologists, neurosurgeons, and orthopedic surgeons direct care provided by physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, recreation therapists, respiratory therapists, and other specialists focused on the patient’s long-term recovery. The first step in a patient's care is a comprehensive evaluation by a physician, addressing the effects of the injury on strength, movement, muscle function, skin integrity, bowel and bladder function, and the ability to sit. Our team uses the results of this assessment to assemble a plan of care customized to each patient’s needs.
Restoring Function, Mobility, and Independence
The goal of spinal cord injury rehabilitation is to help our patients return to the highest level of function and independence possible at home and in their communities, while improving overall quality of life—physically, emotionally, and socially. Rehabilitation begins as soon as is deemed medically possible after the injury. As the patient’s condition improves, our team initiates a more extensive rehabilitation program that focuses on restoring and improving:
- Self-care, such as feeding, grooming, bathing, and dressing, guided by occupational therapists.
- Mobility through walking or wheelchair use. We have expert physical therapists and a dedicated seating and mobility program to provide guidance and equipment.
- Respiratory support through a ventilator or breathing exercises to strengthen lung function.
- Communication skills through speech-language therapy (for speech) and occupational therapy (for writing).
- Socialization and emotional health through psychosocial support and counseling.
- Family support and education to help them learn to adapt to lifestyle changes resulting from the injury.
Leaders in Spinal Cord Injury Research
Columbia University and Weill Cornell Medicine researchers are conducting laboratory and clinical studies aimed at better understanding spinal cord injuries and devising new ways to improve the rehabilitation of people affected by this serious trauma.
- At Columbia University, investigators in the Robotics and Rehabilitation (ROAR) Laboratory received a five-year $5 million grant from the New York State Spinal Cord Injury Board in 2016 to assess and improve the effectiveness of standing/balance training during spinal cord injury rehabilitation using a unique robotic system they developed called the Tethered Pelvic Assist Device (TPAD). TPAD is a light-weight cable-driven robot that can be programmed to stabilize the pelvis while a patient wears it during walking on a treadmill. The goal is to enhance the recovery of balance during spinal cord injury rehabilitation.
- At Burke Medical Research Institute, an affiliate of Weill Cornell Medicine, researchers are understanding the processes that control spinal cord regeneration and studying the effects of rehabilitation and the use of robotics in patients. Laboratory investigators are exploring sensory signaling processing that occurs in individual cells, cell transplantation to repair injured spinal cord tissue, electrical stimulation of spinal cord circuits from the brain to spinal cord injury, and neuro-rehabilitation to improve recovery.
Participate in Spinal Cord Injury Research
The Spinal Cord Research Registry contains the names of people who have had a spinal cord injury and would like to be informed about research studies conducted by investigators at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia. By adding your name to our registry, you may be able to participate in one or more of our research projects involving individuals living with a spinal cord injury. Only researchers participating in NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia-approved spinal cord injury research studies will have access to the information in the database. For more information, call 212-305-9416. Sign up for the registry.