Improving a spinal injury patient’s quality of life

Suffering from a spinal injury can be life changing for a patient in a number of ways. The treatment they initially receive in hospital can have a positive effect on their quality of life after they are discharged.


Spinal injuries in the UK

On average, someone in the UK suffers a spinal injury every eight hours. Those aged between 16 and 35 years of age are the most likely to endure this type of injury. They still have a substantial part of their life remaining, so providing them with the best outcome possible could impact on how they live with the injury. Some 21% of spinal injury patients who leave a specialist centre are transferred to a nursing home or hospital and 20% will be discharged clinically depressed.

The developments in medical technology and experience enable most patients who suffer a spinal injury to live as long as they normally would. It is vital that nursing teams manage the injuries appropriately, providing the patient with the best quality of life possible. The treatment programme should reduce the development of further injuries and complications and make the rehabilitation process as effective as possible.


Effective patient care

The care that a patient receives within the initial hospital setting, before being transferred to a specialist SCI facility, can have a substantial impact on their eventual prognosis. The way the nursing team manages their care and instigates the rehabilitation programme could make a difference in how the patient adapts to their new life.

Patients with a spinal injury will be immobilised and so require regular turning to prevent the onset of pressure ulcers or other complications. This should be undertaken on a two hourly cycle, unless the patient risk indicates this can be increased to every three to four hours. This prevents pressure from building up in specific areas of the body and reduces the risk of bed sores developing.

The position a patient is placed in following the turn will also impact on the management of their injuries. The angle should be no greater than 30 degrees, maintaining equal weight distribution across the body and preventing skin shearing. This position makes it possible for the patient to carry out certain activities themselves, including eating and drinking, if their injuries permit them.

Positioning improves the visiting experience for the patient and their family and friends. Placing them at the right angle allows them to see and interact comfortably with visitors. This is particularly crucial with visits from Peer Support Officers. They offer information, education and support for recently injured patients, helping them to come to terms with their injuries.

The hospital nursing team are one of the first lines of clinical management in spinal injury cases. They can play an influential role in preparing a patient for being discharged and provide them with the most promising outlook.

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