The C1 vertebra, also known as Atlas, along with the C2 vertebra, also known as Axis, are the first two segments in the cervical spine. These levels are especially important, as they support the head. The Atlas vertebra pivots on the Axis vertebra which allows the head to rotate.
Injuries to the spinal cord at the C1 & C2 vertebral levels are considered to be the most severe of all spinal cord injuries as they can lead to full paralysis but are most often fatal. The injury may be categorized as complete or incomplete depending upon its severity.
Patients that survive spinal cord injuries at the C1 and/or C2 levels will likely have the following symptoms:
There are many possible causes which may lead to spinal cord injury. The following are the most common:
Treatment options for injuries to the spinal cord at the C1 and C2 levels will not reverse the damage. Survivors of cervical spinal cord injuries at this level will likely require assistance for the remainder of their life. Treatments are done to aid in symptom relief, prevent further spinal cord damage, and to aid the patient in using the remaining function of their body.
Current possible treatments include:
Medical researchers are continuously looking for treatment options for spinal cord injury patients. The use of stem cells has shown promising results in regenerating function lost due to this debilitating injury. Injecting these cells into the injured spinal cord may improve overall function and aid in the recovery of the spinal cord. Although this research is still in its infancy, human patient studies have reported improved walking and sensory perception.