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  1. Rozeboom, Nathan MPH, BSN, RN, CCRN
  2. Parenteau, Kathy BSN, RN
  3. Carratturo, Daniel RN, CNRN


Each year between 10 000 and 12 000 spinal cord injuries occur in the United States. Once injured, many of these patients will receive a portion of their care in an intensive care unit (ICU), where their treatment will begin. Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, Washington, provides comprehensive care to approximately 60 to 70 cervical spinal cord injuries each year. Because of many factors such as hemodynamic instability, pulmonary complications, and risk of infection, patients with cervical spinal cord injuries can spend up to 2 or more weeks in the ICU before they transfer to a rehabilitation unit. To achieve optimal outcomes, it is imperative that members of the interdisciplinary team work together in a consistent, goal-oriented, collaborative manner. This team includes physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists, physical and occupational therapists, speech pathologists, dieticians, and rehabilitation psychologists. An individual plan is developed for each patient and rehabilitation starts in the ICU as soon as the patient is medically stable. This article will highlight the management strategies used in the neuroscience ICU at Harborview Medical Center and will include a case study as an example of the typical experience for our patients with high cervical cord injury.