Diagnosing Spinal Cord Injury

Diagnosing a Spinal Cord Injury

Diagnosing a spinal cord injury begins during emergency treatment and usually requires subsequent neurological exams; X-rays, CT scans, and/or MRIs may be administered to determine the level and completeness of the injury. The level of injury refers to the location along the spinal cord where the injury occurred and indicates which parts of the body may be affected. The completeness of the injury refers to the extent of damage to the spinal cord and indicates the degree of paralysis (full or partial) in the body parts that were affected. During diagnosis, the patient’s movement and muscle strength will be tested along with their response to light-touch and pinpricks to various parts of the body. Physicians may use one or more of the following scales to rate an injured person’s responses to the tests.

  • American Spinal Injury Association Scale (ASIA)
  • Neurological Level of Injury (NLOI)
  • Function Independence Measure (FIM)
  • Quadriplegic Index of Function (QIF)
  • Modified Barthel Index
  • Spinal Cord Independence Measure (SCIM)
  • Capabilities of Upper Extremity Instrument (CUE)
  • Walking Index for SCI (WISCI)
  • Canadian Occupational Performance Measure (COPM)