Department of  Neurosurgery
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Spinal Cord Injury

Washington University neurosurgeons at Barnes-Jewish Hospital specialize in the treatment of both acute and chronic spinal cord injury. We work together with other specialists – trauma surgeons, orthopedic surgeons and neurologists – to offer multidisciplinary care for patients with complex traumatic spinal cord injuries. We also are actively engaged in multiple clinical trials aimed at improving outcomes for spinal cord injury patients.

Washington University neurosurgeons are consistently recognized for clinical excellence in treating spinal cord injuries. While treating a high volume of patients, we draw upon leading neuroscience research and a wide range of rehabilitation resources at The Rehabilitation Institute of St. Louis.

Conditions & Treatments

Spinal cord injury is a devastating condition, representing a significant public health problem. There are approximately 12,000 new spinal cord injury cases in the United States each year. The average age of affected persons is less than 40 years, and it is now estimated that approximately 259,000 Americans currently are living with these injuries.

Injury to the spinal cord can cause permanent sensory and motor dysfunction, such as the inability to use one’s arms or legs. Recovery from a complete spinal cord injury is very rare, leaving most patients with significant permanent disability. 

Spinal cord injury consists of two distinct injury patterns: the initial mechanical injury and post-injury cord changes, which lead to immediate cell death and the activation of metabolic and vascular changes. Preventing or minimizing the effects of secondary injury is the window for intervention to improve functional outcomes for patients.

Spinal cord injury is often associated with spinal instability or spinal fractures that require specialized expertise for operative fixation. Washington University neurosurgeons perform the entire spectrum of complex spinal stabilization procedures. In emergency cases, depending on other injuries, our neurosurgeons usually operate within 24-48 hours. 

Nerve Transfers for Spinal Cord Injury

Washington University neurosurgeons also perform nerve transfers for spinal cord injury to provide improved upper extremity and hand function in patients with injuries to the cervical spine causing paralysis in all four limbs.

Read more about nerve transfers for spinal cord injury.

Video of nerve transfer procedure and patient recovery


Neurosurgery Providers

Orthopedic Surgery Providers

  • Michael Kelly, MD
  • Lukas P. Zebala, MD

Trauma Surgery

  • Grant V. Bochicchio, MD, MPH
  • Douglas J.E. Schuerer, MD

Neurology/Rehabilitation Providers

  • Neringa Juknis, MD
  • Rimma Ruvinskaya, MD Identifier NCT01714349

Supported by the Missouri Spinal Cord Injury & the American Association of Neurological Surgeons/Congress of Neurological Surgeons Joint Spine Society


On average, Washington University neurosurgeons see 100 patients annually with spinal cord injuries.