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Spinal cord injuries and muscle wasting connection newly explored

On Behalf of | Jan 17, 2024 | Injuries |

A recent study led by The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center has brought to light the extensive impact of spinal cord injuries (SCI) on muscle wasting. This condition, which extends beyond expected muscle loss due to paralysis, presents a rapid and severe reduction in muscle mass. The research reveals that muscle wasting isn’t only a result of inactivity but also stems from a deeper, systemic issue related to hormonal imbalances.

The study uncovers that the severity of muscle wasting in SCI patients is closely linked to hormonal changes, particularly involving the stress hormone cortisol. These changes are triggered by an injury’s impact on the adrenal glands. Depending on the injury’s location, the adrenal glands may lose their ability to receive nerve signals, leading to an imbalance in cortisol levels and contributing to muscle loss.

Hormonal imbalance and muscle wasting

The research team found that in cases of high thoracic spinal cord injury, the adrenal glands often become denervated, meaning they lose their connection to the nervous system. This results in a condition known as hypercortisolism, where the body experiences an excess release of cortisol. It creates a hormonal imbalance that acts on muscle receptors throughout the body, causing widespread muscle wasting.

Clinical implications and future research

Understanding the link between spinal cord injury and systemic muscle wasting has significant clinical ramifications. Patients with lower body mass index (BMI) face a higher risk of mortality following an SCI, primarily due to this accelerated muscle loss. This research opens avenues for developing treatments that could mitigate these effects, potentially improving survival rates and quality of life for SCI patients.

While this is potentially good news for those who have spinal cord injuries, it’s a stark reminder of how widespread the impacts of an SCI are. Affected patients will likely need considerable medical care for the remainder of their lives, which is costly. When an injury has resulted from another party’s negligence, they may seek compensation to help offset these expenses.

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