There are different types of spinal cord injury which could occur after a serious accident. The affect on the person, and level of mobility, depends on the seriousness of the damage, and not necessarily the accident itself. There are countless stories where serious spinal injury has occurred after relatively minor incidents, the delicate spine only needs to be damaged in an awkward spot for it to cause partial or complete lack of mobility.
The damage to the spinal cord is referred to as a lesion, the results of such damage is referred to as Quadriplegia, when the lesion is around the neck part of the spine, or paraplegia if it is the thoracic, sacral or lumbar spinal regions. The extent of the damage is then categorised into ‘complete’ and ‘incomplete’ depending on the severity of paralysis and its affect on the spine, limbs and overall sensation.
Quadriplegia (also known as Tetraplegia)
Quadriplegia/Tetraplegia is a spinal cord injury suffered above the first thoracic vertebra. An injury such as this affects the mobility of all limbs and people who are Quadriplegic are most likely paralysed from the neck down. Such a traumatic spinal injury can not only affect mobility, but also physical sensation, can cause respiratory problems and issues with internal organs such as bladder and bowel, mainly due to the paralysis of chest and abdominal muscles. In many cases, patients live life in some form of stabilising device, such as a full spine wheelchair, as the neck is such a delicate area and is difficult to stabilise.
It is highly unlikely that an individual suffering this kind of severe spinal injury will lead an independent life. A Quadriplegic spinal injury not only affects the individual but also those around them, as everyone involved adapts to a new life.
Paraplegia Spinal Cord Injury
A spinal cord injury resulting in paraplegia affects the mobility of the legs, but not the arms, and the varying affect on the spine itself depends on the location and severity of the injury. Most commonly a wheelchair is required; however some patients undertake rehabilitation and may learn to walk with the aid of crutches. Damage to the Thoracic, Lumbar or Sacral spinal regions may result in paraplegia and therefore paralysis of the legs.
Thoracic, Sacral and Lumbar Spinal Cord Injury
Thoracic spinal injuries are less common as this section of the spine is protected by the rib cage. Such an injury could cause paraplegia, but most often it affects loss of sensation, and in particular, can affect an individual’s ability to control their own temperature. It may be necessary to stabilise a patient with the use of a brace.
Sacral spinal injury is lower down the spine and affects the control signals to the thighs, lower legs, pelvic area and feet and again, it may have varying affects on sensation and mobility.
Lumbar spinal cord injuries are one of the more common and this section of the spine is usually where slipped discs occur. As a common form of spinal injury the affects can vary from mild back pain through to paralysis, although strains and pains are much more common than serious damage.
Thanks to Helen from Grieves Solicitors for providing us with this post. Helen is a personal injury expert and contributes to anumber of blogs about his area of expertise.