Pathophysiology of Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury

  • Sebastien Couillard-DespresEmail author
  • Lara Bieler
  • Michael Vogl


Traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) is a drama in two acts. The first part represents the trauma itself, causing the destruction of neural tissue, i.e., the elimination of neuronal and glial cells at the primary lesion site, as well as the transection of axons transiting through the lesioned area. Additionally, damage to the vascular system will provoke hemorrhage and the disruption of the blood–spinal cord barrier. Together, these damages will induce secondary cascades responsible for cell death, enlargement of lesioned area, and further loss of neurological functions. Edema will develop in the early ischemic period triggering a phase of glutamate excitotoxicity and ionic imbalance. The ensuing mitochondrial failure is thereafter responsible for an energy depletion and oxidative stress. The rapid inflammatory response to spinal cord injury is provided by the resident microglia, but foremost by the infiltrating neutrophils and macrophages. At the end of the acute phase, the lesioned area will get enclosed and stabilized by a fibroglial scar. This chapter reviews the sequence of pathophysiological processes occurring after traumatic spinal cord injury, which constitute targets for potential protective or regenerative interventions.


Spinal Cord Spinal Cord Injury Lesion Site Injured Spinal Cord Wallerian Degeneration 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sebastien Couillard-Despres
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lara Bieler
    • 1
  • Michael Vogl
    • 1
  1. 1.Paracelsus Medical University, Institute of Experimental Neuroregeneration, Spinal Cord Injury and Tissue Regeneration Center Salzburg (SCI-TReCS)SalzburgAustria

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