Medical breaththrough: hypothermic treatment prevents paralysis

pc11svanni.jpgA champion gymnast, Jorge Valdez landed on his head after a failed double flip. He suffered bilateral dislocation of his spinal vertebrae.  This would normall result in tetraplegia.  Yet one week later he is walking out of the hospital and will not need rehabilitation.

Neurosurgeon Dr. Steven Vanni, from the Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, performed hypothermic treatment, a relatively new procedure that uses cold for victims of severe trauma to reduce swelling and inflammation.  Dr. Vanni is both a Doctor of Osteopathy and a Chiropractor.

Dr. Vanni surgically decompressed the neck and fixed the dislocation. Then a hypothermia protocol was used to cool Valdez’s body down to 33.5 degrees Centigrade (92.3 degrees Fahrenheit. The normal temperature of the human body is 98.7)  Cooling reduces the amount of swelling and inflammation on the spinal cord to help prevent further damage. That’s important because the spinal cord exists in a closed environment and has no room to swell which then can lead to paralysis.

If there had been other injuries, such as severing of the spinal cord, this procedure would not have worked.  But fortunately for Valdez, even with disclocation of the vertebrae, the spinal cord was left intact.   This truly is an amazing medical result.  And Valdez with the optimism and resiliance of youth, plans to go back to gymnastics.

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About Karen
Karen Koehler, partner at the nationally recognized law firm of SKW, blogs about all things related to spinal cord injuries...More
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