Spinal Cord Injury
Overcoming challenges on the road to recovery
Spinal cord injury recovery involves significant challenges and important choices. Where you go for treatment can make all the difference. At Kessler Institute, you’ll find the comprehensive care, advanced treatment, technologies, training and support to help restore your strength, skills and independence.

The Kessler difference

As one of the largest spinal cord injury programs in the country, Kessler Institute treats many patients with complex rehabilitation needs. This gives us unparalleled expertise and experience to best address your individual challenges, goals and hopes for the future.  

  • A model system of care
    Kessler Institute is one of only 14 centers across the country -- and the only hospital in New Jersey -- to be designated as a Model System for the treatment and research of spinal cord injury by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR). In collaboration with Kessler Foundation, we offer advanced science to support your recovery.
  • A team approach to treatment

    We draw on the knowledge of a team of spinal cord injury (SCI) specialists to address the medical, physical, functional and emotional issues you face.

    This interdisciplinary team is led by a physiatrist, a physician board-certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation. Your team also includes rehabilitation nurses; physical, occupational, speech, respiratory and recreation therapists; psychologists and neuropsychologists; dietitians; case managers; and other clinical and support staff as needed.

  • An individualized care plan

    Treatment is tailored to your specific needs and goals and carefully integrated to help you:  

    • Improve physical function and mobility
    • Develop strength, skills and strategies to perform daily activities
    • Manage breathing and respiratory issues
    • Manage spasticity and pain
    • Improve bladder and bowel function
    • Use adaptive equipment and technologies to increase independence
    • Address any psychological, emotional, social or other difficulties as you adjust to life ahead
    • Return home, to work, school or community activities with as much confidence and independence as possible
  • An early start to recovery

    Studies* show that the sooner you begin a highly coordinated, comprehensive spinal cord injury rehabilitation program, the greater gains you are likely to achieve. As a specialized hospital, Kessler offers you the earliest possible start. We work closely with you, your family and the referring hospital to ensure a smooth transition to our program.

    You will benefit from a minimum of three hours of physical, occupational and/or speech and other therapies a day, five days a week. The skills and strategies you learn will be reinforced by your nursing team and in recreational activities. Depending the level of your injury and abilities, you may be fitted for a wheelchair and other assistive equipment, including electronic aids to assist with daily tasks. You and your family will also be given the education and training needed to help maintain your overall health and well-being following your discharge. When you’re ready, we’ll coordinate your discharge, help arrange for any required equipment and provide access to community resources that may be available to you. Our goal, like yours, is to move you forward with as much independence and confidence as possible.

    *Association of Academic Physiatrists (AAP). "Rehabilitation After Spinal Cord Injuries: The Sooner, the Better." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 February 2016.

  • A unique continuum of care
    To help you return home and resume work, school, community and/or social activities, Kessler provides unparalleled continuity of care. We are here to help you manage your health from inpatient to outpatient and offer lifelong follow-up. This includes medical, therapy, wheelchair and mobility, driving and other specialized services to meet your ongoing or changing needs. 
  • Outcomes

    On average, patients at Kessler Institute have greater improvement during their stay and greater functional abilities upon discharge, based on national benchmarks* that measure such factors as mobility and the ability to perform daily living activities.

    * Source: eRehabData.com

  • Bringing research to life
    Working closely with the research scientists at Kessler Foundation, we are exploring many new and exciting avenues of treatment. For example, at the Foundation’s new Center for Spinal Stimulation on our West Orange campus, the SCI team is studying how electrical stimulation of the spinal cord, combined with intensive physical therapy, can help individuals regain mobility and function, leading to greater personal independence. This is one of many studies offering new hope to persons with SCI.
Jerry golfing
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Our patients say it best
Jerry's Story
"It was important for Wendy and me to learn as much as we could. We asked countless questions, and my Kessler team provided all the answers. My experience at Kessler was so empowering. They gave me the strength and the tools to begin this next chapter in my life."

Your progress. Our programs.

It’s important to remember that recovery takes time. Every patient is different and your stay with us will depend on the extent of your injury, your goals and the progress you make each day. Here are some of the many specialized Kessler services that may benefit you.  

  • Ventilator management
    Many individuals with spinal cord injury are unable to breath on their own due to their level of injury. Kessler’s advanced ventilator and respiratory management program helps patients maximize their breathing potential and decrease the likelihood of respiratory complications. Our respiratory therapists and ventilator-certified nurses and therapists work to wean appropriate patients from mechanical ventilators and tracheostomies, and support those with a diaphragmatic pacing system. This helps improve speech and swallowing, your comfort level, independence and overall quality of life.
  • Treatment of multiple diagnoses
    Many patients, often those who have had a fall or been involved in a motor vehicle accident, have a “dual-diagnosis” of a spinal cord and traumatic brain injury. For these individuals, we offer a highly integrated program of care to help them overcome the wide range of complex medical, physical, functional and cognitive challenges they face. 
  • Urology and fertility services
    A spinal cord injury may impact communication between the brain and the spinal cord nerves that regulate bladder and bowel function. As a result, controlling your bladder and bowel may be difficult. Kessler’s urology services team helps you effectively manage these issues through medication, catheterization, irrigation and other interventions. In addition, Dr. Todd Linsenmeyer, Kessler’s director of urology services, treats male infertility and sexual dysfunction.
  • Mobility options
    The extent of your injury will help the team determine your mobility needs. Most people with SCI will need to use a wheelchair temporarily or permanently and it is important to be fitted properly. Kessler’s physical and/or occupational therapists, who are also certified assistive technology professionals and/or seating and mobility specialists, will evaluate your physical and lifestyle needs and use pressure mapping and other tools to find the best option for you.
  • Electronic aids for daily living
    Your ability to perform daily activities at home, work or school -- opening a door, turning on lights or a TV, using a computer or making phone calls -- is critical to your independence. Working with your therapy team, you will learn to manage everyday tasks with the help of electronic aids and other assistive technologies, such as advanced environmental controls, voice-activated systems, wireless headsets and other adaptive equipment.
  • Canine companions for independence

    To help reinforce your skills and restore your spirit, Kessler’s specially trained canine companions for independence* may be part of your therapy program. Several Kessler therapists work with these remarkable dogs to engage patients in a wide range of activities that support the rehabilitation process. 

    *Not available at Kessler-Marlton

  • Education, training and support

    Preparing you and your family for life ahead is one of our primary goals. We provide extensive education to help you understand the challenges and opportunities of living with a spinal cord injury and the strategies, resources and training to help. We also offer a peer mentoring program where you’ll meet others who are living with SCI and learn from their experience. 

    Similarly, Kessler has a number of SCI support groups that will help you and your family gain greater insight and encouragement.    

  • Vocational resource facilitation program

    Vocational resource facilitation* helps you prepare for re-entry into the workforce. This unique program provides assistance, guidance and support to help you reach your employment goals. Our vocational resource facilitator will meet with you to explore your options, gain access to needed resources and enable you to pursue meaningful employment -- whether in a previous position or a new one. 

    *Available at Kessler-West Orange

  • Driving rehabilitation and other specialized programs
    The ability to drive allows individuals with spinal cord injury to lead more independent lives. Kessler Institute’s certified driver rehabilitation specialists offer the evaluation and training necessary for you to drive safely. They will also discuss modifications and/or adaptations that may need to be made to your car or van and guide you in the process of updating your license and taking the required road test. 
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Spinal cord injury
From robotic technologies to spinal stimulation, we advance our patients' progress in ways we never thought possible. We also never lose sight of the importance of the human touch - the need to provide patients with the care, compassion, understanding and hope. - Steven Kirshblum, M.D., senior medical officer & director of SCI rehabilitation

Technology and research drive recovery

spinal cord patient

Kessler Institute has pioneered the field of spinal cord injury rehabilitation for more than 70 years.  We continue to balance hands-on treatment with leading-edge technologies to support your individual recovery and research the most promising new avenues of care.

Among the many advances now available to appropriate patients:

  • Body weight supported treadmill training (BSWT) to improve gait
  • Robotic devices, such as  an exoskeleton, to build strength, enhance mobility and improve arm or hand function
  • Electrical stimulation to reduce the loss of muscle tissue and improve cardiovascular function
  • Electronic devices, called environmental control units, to assist with daily tasks and increase independence
  • Adaptive gaming and other computer-based tools to support participation in leisure activities and greater social interaction
  • Medications to manage spasticity (stiff muscles) 

Let us help

We will work closely with you, your family, your physician and/or the referring hospital to ensure a smooth transition to Kessler Institute for your rehabilitation.

Did you know?

Studies* show that people with spinal cord injuries treated at a rehabilitation hospital like Kessler Institute have a higher level of independence and are more likely to be discharged to home than those treated in other care settings. 
*Assessment of Patient Outcomes of Rehabilitative Care Provided in Inpatient Rehabilitation Facilities (IRFs) and After Discharge. Dobson DaVanzo & Associates, LLC. 2014.
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