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Pediatric Spinal Cord Injury

Excellence in spinal cord injury care

Innovative treatment and rehabilitation programs to help children live their best lives

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Pediatric Spinal Cord Injury

Shriners Hospitals for Children works tirelessly to provide leading practices in spinal cord injury (SCI) and spinal cord dysfunction (SCD) care and rehabilitation. Every family is met with respect, compassion and a treatment plan that utilizes the most updated clinical and scientific research. As one of the largest pediatric health care systems in North America that specializes in care for pediatric spinal cord injuries and dysfunction, the expertise of our network of physicians and providers will offer your child innovative and individualized treatment options that will help them to achieve the best possible outcomes.

Symptoms related to SCI, and the severity of the injury, are related to the location of the trauma. For instance, if the cervical (neck area) spine is injured, the result will likely be loss of strength and muscle function – with varying degrees of paralysis in the arms and legs. The common term used by medical professionals for this SCI outcome is tetraplegia, formerly referred to as quadriplegia. If the injury is quite severe, it can also affect the child’s ability to breathe on their own.

When the spinal cord injury occurs in the thoracic spine, the arms and hands continue to function as they did prior to the SCI, while the legs become impaired. This is referred to as paraplegia. The severity of these SCIs varies as well. The injury may cause minor issues with mobility or sensations in the lower limbs; or can lead to total paralysis from the waist down.

It is important to note that not all SCIs lead to paralysis. There can be varying medical issues that follow an SCI, which can interfere with other bodily functions.

Gripping a pen, moving a limb and breathing independently can make all the difference in the life of a child with spinal cord injury.

Surgeons at some of our locations offer advanced tendon and nerve transfers that can restore function and sensation. Our innovative care also incorporates groundbreaking procedures, such as surgical implants that allow severely injured children to breathe without a ventilator. Shriners Hospitals for Children researchers are committed to providing care and rehabilitation services that strengthen children’s self-esteem while promoting independence.

Conditions, treatments and services provided may vary by location. Please consult with the Shriners Hospitals for Children location nearest you. See zip code search feature to the right.

Find a Location Near You

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22 Locations Across North America

Location Specialties
  • Burn Care
  • Craniofacial and Cleft Lip/Palate
  • Neuromuscular
  • Orthopaedics
  • Orthotics and Prosthetics
  • Pediatric Surgery
  • Spinal Cord Injury
  • Sports Injury and Fractures
  • Therapy and Rehabilitation

Notice: Treatments and services vary by location. Contact nearest hospital for specific details.

Types of spinal cord injuries and dysfunction:

Shriners Hospitals for Children's team of spinal cord injury specialists include spine surgeons, psychologists, dieticians, therapeutic recreation specialists and more. We are all dedicated to transforming children's lives while supporting their independence.

We specialize in the care and treatment for spinal cord injuries and other conditions resulting in paralysis, including, but not limited to:

  • Traumatic SCI
  • Incomplete spinal cord injuries
  • Complete spinal cord injuries
  • Congenital defects of the spine
  • Sacral agenesis
  • Spina bifida
  • Tethered cord
  • Guillain-Barré syndrome
  • Transverse myelitis
  • Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM)
  • Transverse myelitis
  • Acute traumatic SCI
  • Congenital SCI
  • ADEM (Acute disseminating encephalomyelitis)
  • Spinal cord infarct
  • Oncology/radiation necrosis SCI

Shriners Hospitals for Children places equal emphasis on helping families work through the social, emotional and developmental aspects of living with a spinal cord injury. It is a collaborative environment fueled by respect, empathy and practical strategies to help every patient reach their potential and enjoy the highest quality of life.

Conditions, treatments and services provided may vary by location. Please consult with the Shriners Hospitals for Children location nearest you. See zip code search feature to the right.

Shriners Hospitals for Children's medical support services and therapies are designed to help patients live their best lives during treatment, recovery and beyond.

Some of our most life-changing services and therapies for SCI include:

  • Robotic-assisted gait training: This type of pediatric walking therapy helps children of all types of walking abilities improve their mobility, muscle tone and circulation.
  • Treadmill training: Body-weight supported manual treadmill training helps stimulate muscles and establish strength.   
  • Functional electric stimulation (FES): This sophisticated computer system stimulates the peripheral nerves with small doses of electrical current. This, in turn, rouses paralyzed muscles.
  • Activity-based rehabilitation: Many of our locations offer unique therapy options that are exciting and fun for kids; everything from aqua therapy to adaptive sports to pet therapy. These types of activities treat more than just the physical body, helping to build confidence, independence and social skills.
  • Phrenic pacing program: This program, specifically designed to help children with high-level spinal cord injuries, leverages a special type of breathing pacemaker to help those who are dependent on a ventilator.
  • Power plate training: This vibration therapy is aimed at improving walking function, cadence and coordination.
  • Armeo spring therapy: This type of therapy is ideal for children who have sustained a spinal cord injury that has impacted arm and/or hand functioning.
  • MOTOmed: This kind of movement therapy provides focused training for children with restricted mobility.
  • Wheelchair and seating clinic: Onsite at most of our locations and a resource available to all of our spinal cord injury patients is a department dedicated to custom wheelchair manufacturing to help children as they grow and adapt.

Conditions, treatments and services provided may vary by location. Please consult with the Shriners Hospitals for Children location nearest you. See zip code search feature to the right.

Shriners Hospitals for Children is one of the world's most respected pediatric health care systems, with 22 locations across the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Telehealth capabilities help our physical locations care for patients from select rural and underdeveloped regions. Additionally, our national and international outreach programs and community clinics reach thousands of children who would not otherwise have access to pediatric specialty care.

What to expect

Our priority is our patients, which is why each and every family is always met with compassion, hope and respect. We understand that many families are navigating complex medical issues, and Shriners Hospitals for Children works hard to make the journey as easy as possible.

Insurance and payment information

Most major insurance providers are accepted; however, insurance coverage is not required for care. Any child under 18 with a medical condition or medical need that is within the health care system’s scope of services, is eligible for care. Shriners Hospitals for Children offers financial assistance to those in need.

Before your appointment

Prior to your first visit, be sure to gather any medical records and documents, assistive technology or adaptive devices that may be relevant to the health care team.

This checklist should be helpful when preparing for your first appointment:

  • List of current medications your child is taking
  • X-rays or other diagnostic images/reports
  • Your child’s primary care and referring physicians' names, addresses, and phone and fax numbers
  • Insurance card and photo ID

Helpful links and information:

Shriners Hospitals for Children has treated 1.4 million children since opening its first hospital nearly a century ago. Since its inception, our health care system has earned its place as a leader in treating spinal cord injuries of all kinds. Our wide-ranging outpatient and inpatient services deliver intensive care and therapy, and a variety of rehabilitation options, all built on a family-centered foundation.

Pediatric specialists

Our comprehensive team of treatment professionals consists of specialists such as:

  • Neurosurgeons
  • Pediatric spine surgeons
  • Physical and occupational therapists
  • Dieticians
  • Child life therapists
  • Psychologists
  • Recreational therapists
  • Respiratory therapists
  • Urologists
  • Social workers
  • Care managers
  • Hand surgeons
  • Plastic and reconstructive surgeons
  • Orthotists and prosthetists

Medical expertise and experience

Children who seek spinal cord injury care and rehabilitation at Shriners Hospitals for Children benefit from care delivered by medical professionals who are recognized leaders in the field.

Shriners Hospital doctors are involved nationally and internationally in a number of professional organizations including:

Our spinal cord injury care program is guided by the most up-to-date clinical and scientific research, and is delivered with warmth and compassion. We aim to enrich each patient's quality of life, as well as their abilities, and prepare them to live as independently as possible.

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