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Rehabilitation – Spinal cord injury

Rehabilitation – Spinal cord injury

Watch a video about our services for rehabilitation/spinal cord injury in children.

Rehabilitation services

Rehabilitation services include pediatric physical, occupational and speech therapy in a family-centered environment. The scope of care may include routine outpatient sessions, as well as intensive inpatient and outpatient therapy for post-surgical and rehabilitation patients. Treatment specialties cover a wide variety of orthopaedic and neurologic conditions. Evaluations are followed by training in functional skills with communication devices, standers and various mobility and bathroom aids recommended as needed.

Rehabilitation for acute flaccid myelitis

Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is a condition that can attack the nervous tissue and the myelin (the protective coating) of the spine nerves. Pediatric neurologists and pediatric ICU doctors are the specialists who initially care for patients with AFM. Once they begin to improve, patients can benefit from rehabilitation services. Acute inpatient rehabilitation, in a program like the one offered at the Chicago Shriners Hospital, is often the best place to work on recovery from conditions such as AFM.

The rehabilitation services team

Physical therapists work with children on developing gross motor skills, balance, mobility, transfers, walking, strength, flexibility, sports rehabilitation and wheelchair or adaptive equipment evaluations.

Occupational therapists work with children to develop fine motor skills, train in basic self-care and use of adaptive equipment; increase upper-extremity strength, endurance, flexibility and splint fabrication.

Speech-language pathologists assist children with feeding and swallowing disorders, as well as language delays and impairments. Children with limited verbal skills are assessed for augmentative and alternative communication devices.

Our rehabilitation therapists have a combined 200 years of experience working with children and have access to some of the most state-of-the art equipment in the field, including:

  • ReWalk
  • Reoambulator
  • Body-weight-supported treadmill training
  • Upper and lower functional electrical stimulation cycles
  • H200 wireless hand rehab system
  • GameCycle
  • Aqua-therapy pool
  • Augmentative and alternative communication
  • SmartWheel
  • PowerPlate
  • AlterG treadmill
  • ArmeoSpring
  • MOTOmed
  • Planar seating system


Spinal cord injury in children (SCI) services

Because of the immense impact that a spinal cord injury has on children and their families, specialized care is essential to achieve optimal outcomes. In 1983, Shriners Hospitals for Children locations in Philadelphia and Chicago launched the nation's first pediatric SCI rehabilitation programs. Since then, the Chicago Shriners Hospital has delivered specialty care to nearly 1,000 youth with SCI.

The primary goal of the SCI program is to assure that youth with an SCI participate fully in their communities, attain independence and live satisfying lives free from medical complications. In order to achieve these goals, the program provides a wide range of services, including activity-based rehabilitation, exercise programs, adaptive sports, aquatic therapy and animal-assisted therapy. These activities build strength and stamina, increase social interaction and build confidence and independence to the fullest extent possible.

The setting

Comprehensive inpatient and outpatient services are provided in a family-centered and culturally sensitive environment. We provide care at the appropriate levels including:

  • Pediatric intensive care
  • Inpatient rehabilitation
    • Private rooms
    • On-site lodging for two parents
  • Outpatient rehabilitation
    • Housing support
    • State of the art facilities and equipment

Patient in therapy

The medical team

The rehabilitation/spinal cord injury treatment team consists of:

  • Pediatric physiatrist, Medical Director
  • Urologists
  • Nurses and nurse practitioners
  • Occupational therapists
  • Physical therapists
  • Speech therapists
  • Child life therapists
  • Recreational therapists
  • Psychologists
  • RN care managers
  • Social worker care managers
  • Dietitians
  • Respiratory therapists
  • Biomedical engineers
  • Surgical specialists:
    • Pediatric orthopaedists and spine surgeons
    • Hand surgeons
    • Neurosurgeons
    • Plastic and reconstructive surgeons

Advanced therapies, advanced medicine

Activity-based rehabilitation strategies include body-weight-supported manual treadmill training, robotic treadmill training on the Lokomat and functional electrical stimulation (FES) cycling. Management of youth with tetraplegic SCI includes FES, reconstructive surgery and assistive technology. A motion analysis center assists in evaluation of gait in youth with SCI who ambulate. Wheelchair users are assessed with pressure mapping and wheelchair propulsion is evaluated by the unique combination of motion analysis and SmartWheel analysis.

A strong focus on research

The spinal cord injury program includes a strong emphasis on research. Projects center on quality of life issues, long-term outcomes, and the impact of pediatric SCI on the family. Knowledge gained from these studies may improve clinical practices and enhance the lives of young patients with spinal cord injuries.