It has been hypothesized that there are two mechanisms of acute traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI): the primary mechanical damage and the secondary injury due to additional pathological processes initiated by the primary injury. Neurological damage due to laceration, contusion, distraction or compression of the spinal cord is called ”primary injury”. This mechanical injury leads to a cascade of biochemical and pathological changes, described as ”secondary injury”, which occurs minutes to weeks after the initial trauma and causes further neurological deterioration. This secondary cascade involves vascular changes, an inflammatory response, neurotoxicity, apoptosis and glial scarring, and further compromises neurological impairment after traumatic spinal cord injury. Edema, ischemia and loss of autoregulation continue to spread bi-directionally from the initial lesion along the spinal cord for up to 72 hours after the trauma. It has been postulated that the damage caused by the primary injury mechanism is irreversible and therapeutic approaches in recent years have focused on modulating the secondary injury cascade. Researchers found significantly greater numbers of myelinated fibers in peripheral nerves after a single ESWT application in an experimental model on rats after a homotopic nerve autograft into the sciatic nerve.
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