New Referral and Early Management

The Burwood Spinal Unit (BSU) accepts patients into their service as soon as it is medically safe and practical to do so.  Early transfer to the care of a specialised spinal cord impairment (SCI) team is important to ensure optimal treatment, reduce complications and maximise rehabilitation outcomes.

An acute referral is made by the referring hospital consultant to the on call rehabilitation consultant at Burwood.   This may be from any hospital in the catchment area from Taranaki across to Hastings and further south.   Arrangements are then made to transfer the patient to Christchurch Public Hospital, if appropriate.  All acute patients are admitted to BSU via Christchurch Public Hospital ICU, Orthopaedic Trauma Unit or the Neurology ward. Patients are then transferred to BSU as soon as they are medically stable.

The medical team will decide in conjunction with the patient whether surgery is required to stabilise the spine.  If surgery is not needed, then bed-rest or bracing may be indicated.  These services may be provided at Christchurch Public Hospital or Burwood Hospital under the care of the BSU team or Orthopaedic surgeon.  

Patients then requiring comprehensive rehabilitation will be transferred to the BSU to begin a rehabilitation programme.  

The BSU is the only centre in New Zealand which provides rehabilitation to individuals with SCI who require ventilation.  Patients in this situation will be transferred to the BSU, via Christchurch Public Hospital ICU, regardless of where they live in New Zealand.  If a patient lives outside of the BSU catchment area and is able to be successfully weaned from the ventilator, they will usually be transferred back to the Auckland Spinal Rehabilitation Unit for continuing rehabilitation and discharge planning.

Further information about early management, the rehabilitation process, and hospital facilities is available in the Burwood Spinal Unit All You Need to Know handbook.​

Early Management
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Page last reviewed: 17 October 2016
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