Neurospine Program

Our medical and surgical specialty team understands the unique needs of children with neurosurgical spine conditions, including:

  • Craniocervical junction disorders (basilar invagination)
  • Congenital neurosurgical spinal disorders (Down syndrome, Klippel-Feil syndrome, achondroplasia)
  • Spine injuries (both acute and chronic)
  • Herniated discs
  • Spinal degeneration
  • Spasticity syndromes (spinal cord injury, cancer, cerebral palsy)

About neurospinal disease

The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves that serves as a direct line of communication between the brain and the rest of the body. Neurospinal problems fall into a broad category that can include birth defects, disease and injury.

Spinal cord diseases may include inflammations of the covering of the spinal cord within the spine itself. These diseases include meningitis, transverse myelitis and poliomyelitis (polio). Each of these may cause nerves to break down, causing painful spasms or even paralysis.

About acute spinal cord injury

Perhaps more common than defects or diseases of the spine, however, are the effects of injury from serious accidents to the unseen effects of play gone wrong. Acute spinal cord injury (SCI) is a common cause of permanent disability and death in children. SCI is occurs when your child bruises or tears the spinal cord due to traumatic injury.

Warning signs of an acute spinal injury (ACI)

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Inability to voluntarily move the chest, arms, or legs
  • Muscle weakness
  • Numbness, tingling or loss of feeling in the chest, arms or legs
  • Loss of control over the bowels and bladder

If you suspect ASI, do not move your child more than is necessary and call the emergency room immediately.

Diagnosis & treatment 

At Children’s we begin diagnosis with a physical exam and diagnostic tests to determine how well your child responds to neurological stimuli. This may include tests of your child’s reflexes. Depending on the age of your child and the suspected origin of the problem, we may perform blood tests, X-rays and/or MRI, PET & SPECT scans of the spine.

There is no cure for a damaged spinal cord, but our neurology and neurosurgery programs work with other specialists across Children’s to tailor a treatment plan especially for your child, ensuring the highest quality of life possible. Each plan is custom fit to your child’s health and medical history.

Depending on the kind of neurospinal dysfunction, as well as its source, duration and severity, we will discuss a variety of therapies which may include medication to fight infections or to reduce inflammation, or even surgery to repair damaged spinal bones.