Spinal cord injuries are devastating events, and they are particularly tragic when they affect children or adolescents who have barely had an opportunity to experience life. Of the approximately 10,000 individuals who sustain spinal cord injury each year in the United States, 3% to 5% occur in individuals younger than 15 years of age and approximately 20% occur in those younger than 20 years of age (Nobunaga, Go, & Karunas, 1999). Because of the growth and development inherent in children and adolescents and the unique manifestations and complications associated with spinal cord injuries, management must be developmentally based and directed to the individual’s special needs (Vogel, 1997).
The many unique facets of pediatric spinal cord injuries are addressed in this article. They clearly delineate the need for care that is responsive to the dynamic changes that occur with growth and development. The multidisciplinary team, combined with a focus on family-centered care, is essential in pediatric spinal cord injuries.