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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago


Spinal cord injury (SCI) is a common cause of death or permanent disability in children and adults.

Approximately 12,000 people in the US sustain SCI every year, and about 255,000 people in the US are living with SCI.

About 77 percent of all SCI are inflicted on males, and approximately 53 percent of them occur in patients between the ages of 16 and 30 years.

Acute Spinal Cord Injury Center

The Acute Spinal Cord Injury Center of Northwestern Memorial Hospital and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago are nationally recognized leaders in the treatment of SCI. Together they comprise the Midwest Regional Spinal Cord Injury Care System.

This collaborative effort is one of only 14 Model System programs in the United States to be designated as a Model System of Care for SCI by the US Department of Education’s National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR).

To be designated a Model System for SCI care, a program must provide:

  • Emergency medical service
  • Acute medical and trauma care
  • Psychosocial counseling
  • Rehabilitation care
  • Long-term follow-up and community integration

Conditions Treated

Herniated disc
Cervical myelopathy
Degenerative disc
Spinal stenosis
Cauda equina syndrome
Fracture of thoracic and lumbar spine

Collaborative & Site-specific Research

The dedicated physicians and healthcare professionals at Northwestern Memorial Hospital are concerned about both the medical aspects of SCI and the life changing impact on the well being of patients and their families.

It is our goal to maximize potential for neurologic recovery and to minimize and treat any associated conditions or complications to help provide the opportunities for regaining life skills and independence.

Northwestern Memorial’s multidisciplinary approach to acute SCI care includes:

Specialized Surgical Care

Orthopaedic, neurological and trauma surgeons on the medical staff at Northwestern Memorial specialize in traumatic spine and spinal cord injuries and collaborate for the best approach to each patient’s care. Surgical treatments include:

  • Repair of traumatic injury to the cervical, thoracic and lumbar sacral spine

  • Decompression to relieve pressure of neurological structures and to prevent progression of the neurological injury

  • Reconstructive surgical procedures to address the structural stability of the spine

  • Minimally invasive surgical approaches

Treatments Offered

ACDF (Anterior Cervical Discectomy)
Cervical Disc Arthroplasty
Cervical Laminoplasty
Total disc arthroplasty
Posterior foraminotomy
Lumbar decompression
Lumbar fusion

Specially-Trained Nurses

Acute nursing care for SCI patients at Northwestern Memorial focuses on helping the patient maximize functional independence during daily activities.

Our specially-trained nurses manage a wide range of patient-care issues that impact how quickly patients are able to progress. Our nurses have achieved Magnet status, the highest recognition for excellence in nursing care.

Respiratory Care

Northwestern Memorial addresses the most common respiratory issues faced by patients with spinal cord injuries. This enables patients to be transitioned more quickly to the next level of care and to prepare for reentry into the community.

The Rehabilitation Institute is one of the few inpatient rehabilitation facilities in the Midwest that provides cares for ventilator-dependent SCI patients.

Seamless Transition to Rehabilitation

Northwestern Memorial provides patients with a seamless transition from our Acute Spinal Cord Injury Center to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago by providing continuous, supportive and expert care that is crucial during the rehabilitative journey.

Researching New & Promising Treatments for Spinal Cord Injury

Northwestern Memorial physicians are involved in research at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine that includes:

  • Stem cell biology—utilizing stem cells to help repair the damaged spinal cord

  • Nanotechnology to help create an environment in the spinal cord that is conducive to repair

The Rehabilitation Institute is home to one of the largest rehabilitation research efforts in the world with more than 240 projects underway.

The Rehabilitation Institute’s SCI patients are among the first to participate in innovative treatments such as: robot-assisted walking therapy with the Lokomat® and the prototype KineAssist™ that may bring opportunities for greater independence and functional ability.

Last UpdateFebruary 8, 2012


To make an appointment with a physician, please call 1-877-926-4664.

New patients can request an appointment online.