Restoring function after spinal cord injury

Daniel Becker, Cristina L. Sadowsky, John W. McDonald

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND - By affecting young people during the most productive period of their lives, spinal cord injury (SCI) is a devastating problem for modern society. A decade ago, treating SCI seemed frustrating and hopeless because of the tremendous morbidity and mortality, life-shattering impact, and limited therapeutic options associated with the condition. Today, however, an understanding of the underlying pathophysiological mechanisms, the development of neuroprotective interventions, and progress toward regenerative interventions are increasing hope for functional restoration. REVIEW SUMMARY - This study addresses the present understanding of SCI, including the etiology, pathophysiology, treatment, and scientific advances. The discussion of treatment options includes a critical review of high-dose methylprednisolone and GM-1 ganglioside therapy. The concept that limited rebuilding can provide a disproportionate improvement in quality of life is emphasized throughout. CONCLUSIONS - New surgical procedures, pharmacologic treatments, and functional neuromuscular stimulation methods have evolved over the last decades that can improve functional outcomes after spinal cord injury, but limiting secondary injury remains the primary goal. Tissue replacement strategies, including the use of embryonic stem cells, become an important tool and can restore function in animal models. Controlled clinical trials are now required to confirm these observations. The ultimate goal is to harness the body's own potential to replace lost central nervous system cells by activation of endogenous progenitor cell repair mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Excitotoxicity
  • Regeneration
  • Rehabilitation
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Stem cell

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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