The nervous system is a complex collection of nerve cells (neurons) that acts as the body’s electrical wiring, transmitting signals between all parts of the body. It’s made up of the brain, spinal cord and organs that relay information (sensory organs), as well as all the neurons of the body.
The nervous system can be further classified into two groups, the central and peripheral nervous systems:
- Central nervous system: consists of the brain and spinal cord; acts as the control center where all information is processed and decisions are made
- Peripheral nervous system: consists of all the neurons outside of the central nervous system; some carry information from it (motor neurons), while others carry information to it (sensory neurons); these neurons control functions of sensation, movement and motor coordination
Neurons are fragile and can be damaged by pressure, stretching or cutting, and an injury to a neuron can stop the signals transmitted to and from the brain, causing muscles to not work properly or a loss of feeling in an injured area. This can happen in a number of different ways at any part of the nervous system, and these injuries can be grouped based on its location.
Brain injuries, or brain damage, may occur due to a wide range of injuries, illnesses or other conditions. They may also occur if the brain is starved of oxygen for a long period of time. Brain injuries can lead to long-term complications in various types of functioning, and many people who experience them require assistance with performing normal physical activities. Brain injuries are generally grouped as follows:
- Acquired brain injuries (ABI): any type of brain damage that occurs after birth, including traumatic brain injuries; causes of ABI include poisoning, tumors, heart attacks, stroke, strangulation, choking, neurological disorders, infection and drug abuse
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI): caused by an external force, such as a blow to the head, which causes the brain to move inside the skull and damages the brain; causes of TBI include car accidents, sports injuries, physical violence and falls
Depending on the type and severity of brain injury, a wide range of cognitive, perceptive, physical or behavioral/emotional symptoms may develop. If any major changes in any of these areas are noticed, it may be due to a brain injury and should be evaluated by a medical professional.
Spinal cord injuries
A spinal cord injury is any damage, or trauma, to any part of the cord itself or the nerves within it that interrupts the flow of information from the brain to other parts of the body. This can go in either direction and cause permanent changes in sensation, strength and other functioning throughout the body.
The higher the injury on the spinal cord, the more dysfunction will occur. An injury at a higher level of the cord will affect the arms, legs, hands, trunk, legs and pelvic organs, while a lower level injury will only affect the legs, pelvic organs and trunk. Depending on the severity, a spinal cord injury will be classified as either complete or incomplete. A complete injury means nearly all the movement and sensation below the level of the injury is lost or interrupted, while an incomplete injury means some movement remains. Severe injuries can result in paralysis of all four limbs (quadriplegic or tetraplegic) or just the lower limbs (paraplegic).
Accidents, falls and sports injuries may all cause direct damage to the spinal nerves, while other conditions like spinal stenosis, pinched nerves and spinal disc pain can also cause these problems.
Symptoms of damage to nerves of the spinal cord include:
- Loss of movement
- Loss of sensation
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Exaggerated reflexes
- Changes in sexual function
- Pain or stinging sensation
- Difficulty breathing, coughing or clearing throat
Peripheral nerve injuries
Peripheral nerves are fragile and can be easily damaged. When this occurs, it can interfere with the brain’s ability to communicate with the muscles and organs, and may result in loss of motor function, sensory function, or both. Damage to your peripheral nerves can also result in peripheral neuropathy, which is a general term for malfunctioning of these nerves.
Peripheral nerve injuries can be the result of diseases like diabetic nerve problems, can arise through infections like Guillain-Barré syndrome, from nerve compression such as carpal tunnel syndrome or from an injury like brachial plexus injury. Some people may also be born with peripheral nerve disorders. It’s important to get medical care for a peripheral nerve injury quickly, as these nerve tissues are usually able to be repaired.
Symptoms often start gradually and then get worse, and include numbness, tingling/burning, pain, muscle weakness and sensitivity to touch in the arms, legs, shoulders or hands.
If you’ve been experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above and suspect you may have some type of nerve injury, Raleigh Neurosurgical Clinic Inc can help diagnose your condition and determine the proper course of treatment. Your evaluation will include a full medical history, physical and neurological exam, and possibly a radiographic study, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT) or positron emission tomography (PET) scan, depending on your symptoms.
Surgical procedures for nerve injuries offered by Raleigh Neurosurgical Clinic Inc
Once your diagnosis is made, we’ll help you make a decision on the best type of treatment for your injury or condition. For certain nerve issues, surgical treatment may be the most immediate solution to your problem.
At Raleigh Neurosurgical Clinic Inc, some of the surgical procedures for nerve injuries to the central and peripheral nervous systems we offer include:
- Carpal tunnel release
- Ulnar nerve decompression