Question:Our 18-year-old son was involved in a serious hunting accident. He and a buddy were out using an abandoned tree stand they found. Our son fell out of the stand and broke his neck. It wasn't discovered until hours later because his partner was drunk and asleep. Could his paralysis have been prevented if he had been taken to the hospital sooner?
Answer:Spinal injuries are a common result of falls from hunting tree stands. In fact, in 1989, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported tree-stand falls were a leading cause of hunting-related injuries in the United States.
Spinal cord paralysis represents a large percentage of the injuries sustained from these kinds of falls. Fractured and dislocated vertebrae can compress and/or sever the spinal cord. Death can occur, though this is less common than paralysis.
Significant delay in treatment can make a difference. Today, high-dose steroids are given to reduce inflammation (swelling). The sooner this treatment is given, the less pressure is put on the spinal cord. A complete spinal cord injury with total paralysis can be minimized to a case of partial paralysis. And patients who might have otherwise been partially paralyzed have a chance at full recovery.
Delays can also be accompanied by hypothermia with its own long-term consequences. Additional treatment for multiple other problems extends the risk of possible complications.
The lack of communication with outside help is a disadvantage in a serious injury of this type. Patients who lay undiscovered for a long period of time may have a worse outcome than those who are transported to a medical center immediately.R. S. Fayssoux, et al. Spinal Injuries After Falls From Hunting Tree Stands. In The Spine Journal. May 2008. Vol. 8. No. 3. Pp. 522-528.
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