Spinal Cord Injury

Medical Reviewer: Geneva Tonuzi, MD
Last Updated: July 21, 2021
Brooks is offering in-person and telehealth visits with all of our outpatient clinics as well as with our physician medical group. For outpatient, please call our Central Intake Unit at (904) 345-7277. For Brooks Medical Group, please call (904) 345-7373.


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A spinal cord injury, often devastating, can affect any person at any age. The overall goal of a spinal cord injury rehabilitation program is to provide the comprehensive care and support that is needed to successfully transition a person home.

At Brooks Rehabilitation, we have more than 50 years of experience treating patients with spinal cord injuries and assisting their families through the recovery process. We offer an individualized plan of care focused on each patient’s specific goals to optimize their overall level of functional independence.

Why Choose Brooks?

Brooks Rehabilitation is a national leader in providing excellence in care throughout our healthcare system and has received recognition for its commitment to providing cutting-edge technology, forward-thinking research and continuing education and training. Annually, we help more than 200* spinal cord injury survivors and their families achieve their goals and rebuild their lives through our Brooks system of care.

Our team is made up of clinicians specialized to treat a spinal injury. Four of our physical therapists are board certified, with a specialty in neurological therapy. But our care goes beyond expertise — it’s how Brooks treats patients like family. Clinicians are invested in staying up to date on the latest research findings, and in learning individual patients’ stories. We know that motivating patients is a very personal task to each individual, so we want to understand how to bridge the gap between function and passion.

The advanced technology utilized at Brooks helps further patient progress during their rehabilitation journey. However, we know that technology alone isn’t enough — patients with paraplegia, tetraplegia, or any spinal injury need emotional support and human connection, too. That’s why Brooks’ spinal cord injury unit features a peer-mentoring program, where previous patients who have experienced spinal injuries are certified and matched with current patients to assist in rehabilitation and transition out into the world.

At Brooks Rehabilitation, our mission is to serve our community, provide high quality care and facilitate continual growth and advancement in the field of therapy. We strive to provide the best rehabilitation experience for our patients so they may achieve their greatest goals. When you begin your recovery journey with us, we want you to know that you are a part of our community. Brooks is dedicated to you every step of the way.

Learn more about where spinal cord injury rehabilitation takes place.

*Medicare patients

Brooks Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Programs

Our spinal cord injury program is one of the only state-designated treatment facilities for spinal cord injuries in both children and adults, offering the most innovative, scientifically supported treatment available. Our comprehensive system of care offers everything you need to address each stage of spinal cord injury recovery, from inpatient programs to long-term community re-integration, with seamless transitions along the way.

For patients with spinal cord injuries in particular, bowel and bladder management and training is paramount to a successful recovery at home. Patients and their caregivers will receive focused, specialized training to ensure safety and avoid further health complications.

Our spinal cord injury programs at Brooks include:

Bowel Management: Brooks’ nursing staff developed a visual plot to track progress in the bowel management of patients with spinal injuries, which helps physicians and the rest of a patient’s care team understand what adjustments should be made to a rehabilitation plan, and when. This process has been so successful that it has been presented at the Annual Convention of the Academy of Spinal Cord Injury Professionals.

Wound Care: Another essential element of care for patients with spine injuries is wound care. A majority of incoming spinal cord injury patients have pressure injuries, so Brooks has a team of nurses certified in wound care to ensure successful wound healing and prevention of additional pressure injury.

Technology

At Brooks, we offer the best spinal cord injury rehabilitation technologies available, allowing our clinicians to help each patient reach the highest level of recovery and participation in life.

As a regional leader in rehabilitation for over 35 years, Brooks Rehabilitation is focused on using state-of-the-art technologies and innovative, research-based practices to provide our patients with the best possible care. After a spinal cord injury, our expert trained clinicians evaluate each patient’s needs and determine which technologies can be used to provide them or their family member with task-specific exercises and activities that are both repetitive and intense enough to cause neuroplastic changes.

  • Hybrid Program: At Brooks Rehabilitation, we recognize that neuro-recovery takes a lot of time and hard work. Our goal is to provide therapy in the inpatient rehabilitation setting that can be continued as patients or their family member’s progress. To support this, our Hybrid Program is designed to bridge the gap from inpatient rehabilitation to outpatient by offering structured exercise-based programs. Our Hybrid program utilizes a variety of technologies including functional electrical stimulation, virtual reality, and computer/tablet applications and games to maximize you or your family members’ recovery. We utilize an ergonomic exoskeleton with integrated springs and computer based games to simulate functional activities in a 3D workspace. Ultimately, the hybrid program allows patients with a variety of spinal cord injury symptoms to supplement their structured, scheduled therapy with additional exercises to further their rehabilitation.
  • FES Bike: Functional electrical stimulation of the peripheral nerves along with the patterned movement of the bike allows the muscles to work even if a patient has limited or no muscle control due to their spinal cord injury.
  • Body weight support: Utilizes a body harness that is worn by the patient and suspended from the ceiling and/or body weight support device. Body weight support allows for a percentage of a patient’s weight to be offloaded by the device in order to create a permissive environment for challenging activities such as walking, jumping, and squatting.
  • Circuit Training: A combination of strength, balance, and endurance activities that are individually prescribed to promote neurorecovery after a spinal cord injury.
  • Exoskeletons: Robots worn by patients providing them with mechanical assistance to walk. This assistance allows patients to take larger, more consistent steps in order to accelerate motor learning after a spinal cord injury.

Our Patients

At Brooks Rehabilitation, we care for those with all different spinal cord injury levels. Examples of injuries include those from car accidents, falls, violence, disease, and infections. We are also skilled in treating those with similar associated neurologic disorders such as Guillain-Barré Syndrome, Transverse Myelitis, Multiple Sclerosis, and critical illness myopathies and polyneuropathies. We offer treatment programs for those with combined dual diagnosis spinal cord injury and brain injury.

Our highly specialized staff combined with our state-of-the-art equipment assists us in optimizing patients’ outcomes. At Brooks, we understand that every spinal cord injury is unique and we work closely with patients and their families to develop an individualized treatment plan to meet each patient’s personal goals.

Expert Spinal Cord Injury Team

Our highly trained, physician-led Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Team understands that recovery means adapting to a new way of life, and takes a compassionate approach focused on providing the physical, cognitive, emotional, and medical attention needed to maximize our patients’ recovery. By collaborating with patients, their loved ones, and other experts on our team to design treatment plans specific to each patient’s recovery needs and goals, our patients are empowered to achieve their highest level of recovery.

Our expert clinicians regularly conduct clinical research and present their studies as leaders in the field of spinal cord injury recovery. All of our SCI therapists have the opportunity to take part in ongoing training through the Brooks Institute of Higher Learning, allowing them to continually enhance their education and further their understanding of developments in the field that can help our patients.

Research

The Brooks Clinical Research Center features a robust Neuromuscular Research Program focused on developing effective treatments for individuals with neurological disorders. Nationally recognized experts who are part of the collaboration between Brooks and the University of Florida (Brooks/UF-PHHP Research Collaboration) lead the Neuromuscular Research Program. Opportunities are available for patients and community members to participate in studies aimed at improving health and mobility, walking recovery and respiratory function after spinal cord injury. When patients are interested in participating in research, clinicians identify their spinal cord injury level and pass this along to the appropriate research partner.

 

Medical Reviewer

Geneva Tonuzi, MD

Medical Director, Brooks Spinal Cord Injury Program & Cybernic Treatment Center
Dr. Tonuzi received her medical degree from the University of Kansas School of Medicine in 2009. In 2013, she completed her residency training in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. She subsequently completed a fellowship in Spinal Cord Injury Medicine at the University of Miami. Dr. Tonuzi joined the Brooks team as the Medical Director for Spinal Cord Injury in August 2014 and became the Medical Director for the Cybernic Treatment Center in 2018. Dr. Tonuzi is currently a member of the Florida Medical association (FMA), the Academy of spinal Cord Injury Professionals (ASCIP) and the American Board of Physical medicine and Rehabilitation (ABPMR). She is Board-Certified in both Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Spinal Cord Injury Medicine.
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