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Spinal Injuries

We treat adults and children with short and long-term spinal cord injuries and associated problems with paralysis. We carry out surgery and help our patients rehabilitate, understand and live with their injury.

We see patients at our National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. It opened in the 1940’s and has an internationally-renowned reputation across the world for the team’s pioneering work in spinal injuries.

We treat patients from across the UK and overseas.

Most patients come to us because of a traumatic injury. You might come to us from the Accident and Emergency Department or have been transferred from another hospital.

What to expect if you need to stay with us

Before we admit you, our team will review your treatment and care so far. We’ll arrange for you to stay on one of our wards for initial acute care and treatment, or for rehabilitation.

Following a traumatic injury, you’ll need to spend time in bed to allow the bones of your spine to knit and become stable. You might need an operation to stabilise the bones of the spine, in which case you’ll be able to get up quite quickly.

If you need spinal surgery

We provide spinal surgery to newly-injured adults and those who need further surgical intervention at some point during the course of their lives.

Treatments include:

  • conservative injury management to all areas of the spine to reduce swelling
  • surgical spinal injury management with neurological deficit present or imminent
  • correction and stabilisation of congenital and chronic spinal deformities and instabilities
  • bone and soft tissue surgery for improved mobility of joints

An increased number of tetraplegic spinal cord injury patients may benefit from upper limb reconstruction.

We also offer:

  • carpel tunnel decompression
  • removal of dead tissue from pressure sores
  • pressure sore closure
  • skin grafts.

Rehabilitation after your injury

We’re proud to be the first unit in the UK to get international accreditation for our rehabilitation programme.

Rehabilitation helps to maximise your neurological recovery, functional abilities and psychological adjustment, so you can return to the community as independent and productively as possible.

We care for adults and children. For children and young people with spinal cord injuries, the additional changes influenced by growth can impact them physically, socially, environmentally and emotionally.

What to expect from your rehabilitation

When you’re ready to move to the rehabilitation ward, we’ll arrange a meeting to tell you more about rehabilitation. We may also agree an estimated discharge date, which will help you to plan your future living arrangements, for example for housing applications.

We’ll do a needs assessment to highlight areas you want to focus on to gain as much independence as possible before you leave us. We’ll put together a weekly schedule to help you reach your goals. This usually includes physiotherapy, occupational therapy, hydrotherapy, sports-therapy, nursing and teaching sessions.

Our patient support officer provides support and advice about day-to-day queries or problems you may experience during your stay.


Counselling is a key part of the rehabilitation process. Spinal cord injuries can be life changing and you may want to talk to someone about any challenges, concerns and emotions you have

Our clinical psychology team can help you gain a sense of control, help you to cope and adjust to the future. Counselling can offer the opportunity to talk about practical issues such as losses, fears and anxieties in a private and confidential setting.


We provide physiotherapy at all stages of your treatment and care with us.

This includes:

  • joint mobility, muscle strengthening and splinting
  • pain management – acupuncture, hydrotherapy and sports therapy
  • respiratory techniques and interventions
  • balance training and wheelchair skills
  • gait re-education including partial functional electrical stimulation

We can also help with orthotics assessments, and posture and seating reviews.

We organise the centre’s participation in the annual inter-spinal unit games. This allows patients to try a variety of sporting activities, participate competitively as well as meet and learn from elite disabled athletes.


We help you to gain as much independence as possible during all stages of your recovery.

During the acute or bed rest phase, we help with:

upper limb therapy including splinting
daily living tasks, for example, feeding and drinking.

We also find out more about you, your family and your daily life so that we can assess your needs.

During your rehabilitation, we’ll help you identify priorities and goals and help you to become more independent with daily tasks such as getting dressed.

We’ll also:

  • provide group and individual treatment sessions to improve upper limb function
  • identify equipment that will help you live as independently as possible
  • help you access leisure interests, for example, gardening
  • assess your home and make recommendations to improve independence
  • provide information about driving, employment and education
  • provide access to computers and assistive technology.


We help patients who need invasive (through a tracheostomy) and non-invasive mechanical ventilation.

If you arrive at the centre already ventilated, we’ll provide rehabilitation and you’ll leave as either a permanent or part-time ventilator user. You may be weaned from ventilation if you can breathe independently.

Our non-invasive support includes the use of a CPAP machine, which helps you to improve your breathing while you sleep, and a bi-level positive airway pressure (biPAP). You’ll have this support during the acute phase of your injury and, if needed, during rehabilitation.


Our patient education officer runs education programmes to help you understand your injury, how to look after yourself and how to cope with daily life. You’ll hear from clinical experts, as well as former patients and carers.

We also run relatives days throughout the year to help your family understand your injury.


Our clinical teams will liaise with you to plan your discharge from hospital. We work on your behalf to meet your care needs when you leave us and coordinate with your local health provider, housing service and social services department.

We see all newly-injured patients and provide networks for you to interact with specialist advisers for employment, housing and other care needs.

Follow up and outpatient clinics

After you leave hospital, you may need a follow up appointment, or you may have been referred to one of our clinics. These include:

  • obstetrics and gynaecology
  • orthopaedics
  • bowel
  • upper limb reconstruction
  • urology
  • sexuality and fertility
  • weight management
  • employment.


An orthosis is an external joint support for weak or paralysed limbs and joints. They help prevent joint stiffness by holding the joint in the best position.

We can make ankle to foot orthosis, knee to ankle to foot orthosis and upper limb orthosis. We also make braces and corsets to support the joints in the spinal column.

If you have joint stiffness, you may need orthopaedic or bespoke footwear to prevent pressure ulcers, swelling and poor foot circulation.

For children with a spinal cord injury, we use a supportive and preventative orthosis to enhance postural alignment whilst seated, and to allow standing to promote growth in normal alignment. This helps to minimise, delay and prevent the onset of spinal abnormalities.


We offer support and advice to all patients about their posture and best seating position. We also:

  • discuss your posture, comfort, function and skin care needs
  • review your seating needs (both wheelchair and cushion)
  • educate patients and carers about posture, seating and skin care
  • liaise with local wheelchair services about the provision of equipment.

We do not provide any equipment but will refer you to local wheelchair services with recommendations.


After you have been discharged from hospital, we’ll visit you within 6 months. We see you in your home surroundings and assess how you’re settling back into daily life.

A nurse or therapist will discuss how you’re getting along with your physical care, including medication, bladder, bowel and skin care. They’ll talk to you about your mobility, as well as social needs including housing, driving and employment.

We also see patients who may need help as a result of a community team intervention.

Spinal injuries patient information


National Spinal Injuries Centre
Outpatient enquiries
Spinal cord injury advice and wellbeing
National Spinal Injuries Centre

01296 315872

Outpatient enquiries

01296 838888

Spinal cord injury advice and wellbeing

01296 315829

If we can not answer your call straight away, leave a message. We aim to respond during the same day.

Spinal injuries support and facilities