Spine Health

Spinal cord injuries and diseases affect a person’s ability to function independently in all areas of daily life. At the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute, our team of spinal cord injury and disease experts helps patients regain their independence.

Today, we’re chatting with physiatrist and expert in spinal cord injury medicine Amanda Harrington, MD, about the patient rehabilitation experience at the Center for Spinal Cord Injury.

Q: What conditions do patients typically have on your unit?

A: The spinal cord injury unit at the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute has a variety of patients. We see patients with both traumatic and nontraumatic injuries, and we see patients who are paralyzed from either the neck down or from the waist down. For the nontraumatic injuries, for example, we see patients with multiple sclerosis, weakness from cancer, or perhaps even weakness from a spinal infection.

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Q: How do you determine a patient’s care pathway?

A: When a patient is admitted to the spinal cord injury unit, the entire rehab team does an assessment to determine what the patient can and cannot do on their own. From that, we generate an individual plan of care based on their current function and what we project they’ll be able to do by the end of the rehabilitation program.

Q: Who is on the care team for spinal cord injury?

A: In our unit, there’s a multidisciplinary team of providers that works together under one roof to provide excellent care to spinal cord injury patients. The team includes a rehabilitation physician who specializes in spinal cord injury medicine, rehabilitation nurses, case managers, psychologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, and even a rehabilitation engineer.

Q: What is a typical day like for patients?

A: Most patients will have three to four hours of therapy each day, six days a week, although we do individualize the plan based on the patient. In addition to the time patients work with the therapists, they also work with rehabilitation nurses who help them carry over what they’ve learned in therapy to their day-to-day lives and prepare them for discharge home.

Q: Are support services offered?

A: In addition to therapy sessions and comprehensive medical services, patients also get education sessions, which help both the patient and the family prepare for discharge. Knowledge helps empower our patients and patient supporters to feel confident taking on life again outside of our program.

Q: Why does your program stand out among others?

A: The UPMC Rehabilitation Institute is ranked among the best in the nation for rehabilitation medicine, and our spinal cord injury program is one of 14 Model Systems of Excellence in the country. In addition to providing excellent patient care, we also have a continued commitment to research in spinal cord injury, and the leaders of our program are board-certified in spinal cord injury medicine.

To learn more about the Center for Spinal Cord Injury at the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute, please visit our website or call us at 1-877-287-3422.

About The UPMC Rehabilitation Institute

As part of the largest rehabilitation network in western Pennsylvania — and one of the largest in the United States — the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute is a nationally recognized center of excellence for physical rehabilitation. Experts and support services at our inpatient rehab facilities and transitional units help patients recover from a variety of injuries and illnesses like brain and spinal cord injuries, stroke, trauma and amputation, and more. UPMC is proud to have two hospitals rated as high performing in rehabilitation by U.S. News & World Report.