Outlook for Everett Optimistic, Doctor Says

More on Spinal Cord Injuries

  

There are an estimated 11,000 new cases of spinal cord injuries in the U.S. each year, not including people who die at the scene.

  

Approximately 253,000 people with spinal cord injuries lived in the United States as of June 2006.

  

Most spinal cord injuries occur between the ages of 16 and 30.

  

More than 75 percent of spinal cord injuries reported since 2000 have affected men.

  

Motor vehicle crashes are the most common cause of spinal cord injury, followed by falls, acts of violence (primarily gunshot wounds) and recreational sporting activities.

  

Today, more than 80 percent of people with spinal cord injuries return to live in non-institutional settings — usually the homes where they were living before their injury.

  

About 18 percent of spinal cord injury patients suffer complete paralysis of all four limbs, a condition known as complete tetraplegia (also called complete quadriplegia).

  

Source: National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC)

Buffalo Bills tight end Kevin Everett might walk again after all.

Minutes after Everett was tackled, the Bills' team doctor ran an ice-cold saline solution through the player's body, putting him in a hypothermic state while he was on the way to the hospital.

Dr. Barth Green, chairman of the department of neurological surgery at the University of Miami school of medicine and consultant to Everett's doctors, says this is the first time he's heard of a doctor starting this procedure within moments of an injury — a critical move that should greatly increase Everett's chances of regaining full mobility.

"As of yesterday evening, they told me that when he was lifted out of the sedated state, he was moving his arms and legs much more than ever expected or hoped for," Green tells NPR's Melissa Block.

Initial reports indicated Everett might suffer permanent paralysis.

Green says that "moderate hypothermia" — the process of running a cold saline solution through a patient's veins — is almost like putting an ice pack on a bruised arm or leg. If it is just allowed to bleed and swell, he says, that person will eventually have more problems.

The team's spinal specialist, Dr. Andrew Cappuccino, sent saline into Everett's veins in the ambulance, continued treatment in the emergency and operating rooms and installed a system in the ICU which maintained his temperature for the next 48 hours.

Green says the option of using moderate hypothermia as a treatment might well improve prospects for many people who suffer catastrophic spinal cord injuries.

"There is an opportunity for people," he says. "Is it raising expectations, or should we just go around and say, 'Spinal injuries forever, people never get better, there's nothing you can do.' Those are your two choices, which would you take?"

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