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Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) refers to injury or damage to the spinal cord resulting in a loss of function. This can include motor, sensory and/or autonomic deficit or a combination thereof. SCI occurs in several ways including hyperflexion or hyperextension, rotational, compression and/or penetrating mechanisms of injury. Leading causes of SCI include traffic collisions, falls, diving, surfing and recreational water activities, assault and sporting injuries.

Spinal cord and/or cervical spine injury should be considered if there is a mechanism of injury that could involve the spine. The main objective for the prehospital provider is to prevent or limit secondary injury with appropriate spinal assessment and spinal motion restriction when required. Restriction in motion of the spine can be achieved via several methods.

Dermatome Levels

Figure 1. Dermatomes and Spinal Cord Involvement Adapted from “An evidence-based approach to human dermatomes”, by M. Lee, R. McPhee, and M. Stringer, 2008, Clinical Anatomy, 21(5), p. 371. Copyright 2008 by Wiley-Liss, Inc.

Figure 1. Demonstrates the dermatomes and areas of innervation in relation to the level of spinal cord injury.

NOTE: It is important to consider the entire spinal cord and not only cervical spine injury.


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