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Understanding Spinal Cord Injury
Our spinal cords are designed to transmit messages between our brains and our bodies. When those messages get cut off due to injury, the results can be devastating. Spinal cord injury can result from any number of things, including motor vehicle accidents, falls, gunshot wounds, sports injuries, or surgical complications. These injuries can result in permanent damage to strength and sensation.
To fully understand the extent of spinal cord injuries, we share this roundup of the types and levels of spinal cord injury:
TWO TYPES OF INJURY
There are two basic types of spinal cord injuries: complete and incomplete. Complete spinal cord injuries result in permanent damage and cause paraplegia or tetraplegia, also known as quadriplegia. Incomplete spinal cord injuries cause partial damage. In incomplete injuries, a person may be able to move and have some feeling.
LEVELS OF INJURY
The spinal cord has four sections: cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and sacral. Each relates to different groups of nerves that control the body.
- Cervical injuries affect the head and neck. This type is considered the most severe. There is usually limited movement and feeling below the neck and shoulders. Those with this type of injury generally require permanent, 24-hour care for the remainder of their lives.
- Thoracic injuries affect the upper chest, middle of the back and abdomen. These nerves and muscles control the rib cage, lungs and diaphragm and typically help you breathe. With this type of injury, arm and hand function is usually normal though pain can radiate. Those with this type of injury often have little or no voluntary control of bowels or bladder but can manage on their own with special equipment. They are usually paraplegics.
- Lumbar injuries affect the hips and legs. Those with this type of injury may need a wheelchair or may be able to walk with braces. They also may have little or no voluntary control of bowels or bladder but can manage with special equipment. The level and length of recovery depends upon whether the injury is complete or incomplete.
- Sacral injuries affect the hips, back of the thighs, buttocks, and pelvis. These people are usually able to walk despite some loss of function in the hips and legs. Affected organs include the bladder, bowel, and sex organs. The prognosis depends upon the level of severity, coupled with a patient’s health and underlying conditions.
Not every patient can recover from spinal cord injury. Getting funds for special needs and care can make all the difference between a life of hardship or one of support. Tom Duffy has been a member of the board of Magee Rehabilitation Foundation for over 20 years. He is keenly aware of developments in spinal cord care and has obtained 8-figure verdicts for people who have suffered spinal cord injuries in Philadelphia.
Please contact us if you would like to discuss the details of your case.