Spinal Unit

TheSpinal Unit (US), at San Raffaele in Sulmona, accredited with the Regional Health System, cares for individuals with spinal cord injuries of a traumatic nature or resulting from medically related diseases. The consequences that result from spinal cord injury can result in a very complex disabling condition; therefore, the patient who suffers such trauma needs appropriate care support. In this field, the US of San Raffaele Sulmona represents one of the few in Italy that can providespecialized rehabilitation care.

The US can rely on a multidisciplinary professional organizational structure with the ultimate goal of standing rehabilitation of the spinal patient.

Clinical rehabilitation activities cover all aspects of disability, involving neuromotor, respiratory, and bladder-sphincter functions.

Great importance is also given to the psychological and social aspect of the individual: the US is a permanent point of reference for both people with spinal cord injury and their families in the journey leading to the total social and work reintegration of the myeloma patient.

Initiatives aimed at full social inclusion include.

Disabled Sports Project

San Raffaele Sulmona, in collaboration with the Italian Paralympic Committee (CIP), has implemented the “Disabled Sports” project aimed at giving disabled patients the opportunity to practice regular sports activities.

Sports activity is considered an integral part of the rehabilitation program and is therefore coordinated directly by the Spinal Unit manager.

US patients at St. Raphael Sulmona participate in classes taught by CIP-affiliated instructors and coaches in facilities suitable for sports activities.

Sports help disabled patients mainly from a psychological (motivation, morale, discipline) and social (attendance at sports centers even after hospitalization) point of view, as well as from a physical point of view, allowing, for example, greater trunk control and bringing benefits from a cardiovascular point of view.

Read the story of Antonio Cippo, a promise of Wheelchair Tennis!

Transitional Living (Pre-demission Apartments)

In view of the fact that the person with spinal cord injury possesses peculiar needs related to adapting to the new living condition within the home following discharge, the Spinal Unit of San Raffaele Sulmona has initiated the “Transitional Living” project.

The goal is to provide patients with living spaces where it is possible to verify the abilities achieved after the rehabilitation cycle, before returning to their homes and specifically to create personalized protocols, which allow them to replicate, at home and/or in work spaces, the optimal conditions in order to limit the discomfort of discharge as much as possible.
Within San Raffaele Sulmona have been built: a living space of about 70 square meters for paraplegia patients an apartment of about 80 square meters to accommodate quadriplegic patients.

The latter has within it a bed reserved for caregivers who in quadriplegic patients will necessarily have to be present in the patient’s life.

These spaces are designed to:

Enable a gradual transition of the patient from the protected, high-assistance environment of the health facility to the more autonomous environment of daily living at home
To offer both patients and their families the opportunity to experience the problems associated with “living in an apartment” before their permanent return to their home
reproduce the home environment by offering solutions that can increase patient autonomy.
The Project includes a specific consulting activity aimed at the development of a home adaptation study-project with the indication of any construction work to be carried out, equipment, spaces and home automation equipment deemed necessary.

All of the proposed solutions are easily recreated at home.


Driving initiation for different disability conditions

The “No-limit Driver’s License” Project provides patients in the Spinal Unit with the opportunity to obtain a special driver’s license for the disabled during the hospitalization period through specific induction activities based on different disability conditions. In fact, patients are followed throughout by offering the necessary support from the initiation of bureaucratic paperwork to the attainment of the driver’s certificate.

Specifically, the Project involves:

Support in choosing different driving adaptations;
In-facility attendance of the theoretical course for the issuance of the “B special” driver’s license;
Organization of meeting sessions dedicated to the prevention of traffic accidents with the participation of law enforcement agencies;
Driving tests with a qualified instructor;
Examination assistance at the appropriate DMV.


Main pathologies treated

Outcomes of spinal cord injury in adulthood

Rehabilitation activities

Reeducation of neuromotor function with emphasis on supralesional coordination, residual muscle strengthening, gait training with and without aids, functional electrostimulation (FES), EMG biofeedback and electroencephalography.
Hydrotherapy equipped with three pools (one for incontinent patients), at different depths with back/lumbar whirlpool and counter-current swimming.
Assessment of oxygen consumption (VO2Max), and reeducation of respiratory function
Neuro-urological diagnosis and rehabilitation of bladder-sphincter function (urodynamics)
Treatment of spasticity
Shock wave therapy (SWT), for the treatment of neurological paraosteopathies (POAN)
Assessment and treatment of neuropsychological and social aspects
Occupational therapy. Assessment of sexual and reproductive function
Robotic rehabilitation. The “Ekso” exoskeleton enables patients who use it to recover standing and walking, particularly in paraplegic individuals. This is possible through sensors that can detect, in real time, the shift in body weight and thus the user’s intentions. It calculates and performs movements corresponding to the step by activating battery-powered motors. The device is easily worn and operated by setting walking programs and using Canadian canes by coordinating hand movements.