A July 2013 study, a product of a multi-year neuroscience collaboration between the University College London and University of Zurich, published in The Lancet Neurology Journal – shows that permanent degenerative changes in the spine can occur much more rapidly, than previously thought, after traumatic injury.
Permanent loss of tissue and function can be seen, via MRI, within 40 days of cervical spinal-cord injury. These kinds of visible degenerative changes were previously thought to take years to present themselves. The more degenerative changes and more extensive the tissue loss – the worse the prognosis.
The study followed 13 participants (and 18 controls) with recent traumatic spine injuries by taking MRI images of the C2-3 vertebral levels at two, six and twelve months following the accident. After a year, spinal stenosis – the reduction in the space within the spinal cord – up to 7% (or 0.46mm per month) was evident.
From a Miami spinal cord injury lawyer perspective, studies like these are important. Insurance adjusters and defense attorneys are always looking to pay those who are injured, as little as possible. A defense tool-of-the-trade is to try to pin my client’s pain on a pre-existing condition. The exacerbation of a pre-existing injury is not worth as much as if the negligent party fully caused my client’s pain and suffering.
Depending on the circumstances, spinal stenosis by itself, is widely viewed as a degenerative / preexisting condition that takes years to develop. While the Lancet Neurology published study is not a game changer – as only involved 13 individuals with traumatic spine injuries, we certainly hope to see more studies of this kind.