Paralysis: Long-Term Effects of Spinal Cord Injuries

Close-up of hand on a wheelchair wheelParalysis may be the result of a spinal cord injury. Because the spinal cord contains nerves that carry messages to and from the brain and body, when it is damaged, the communication between the brain and the body is compromised. How severe the paralysis is depends on the location on the spinal cord where the damage occurred. In this article, we will look at various types of paralysis and areas of the body affected.

Understanding Paralysis

When a person is unable to move parts of his body, we typically refer to this as paralysis. Generally, when someone endures a spinal cord injury, he loses feeling and function from the point of injury down. There can be a few reasons that this occurs. One reason is that the pathway between the brain and nerves has been blocked, meaning that the brain cannot get messages to the body about which muscles to move or what to feel. In some cases, a person can feel certain sensations; but the body is unable to send messages, which enable the muscles to move in response to that sensation. Yet in other situations, there may be a partial paralysis due to a certain affected area.

What Are the Types of Paralysis?

Although certain types of paralysis occur as a result of a medical issue, almost a quarter of paralysis cases occur as a result of injury, like a car accident or a fall. Depending on where on the spine the injury occurred, the type of paralysis will differ. Paraplegia and tetraplegia, sometimes referred to as quadriplegia, are the main types of paralysis that result from injury to the spinal cord.

Paraplegia

According to News Medical, spinal cord injuries are the most common cause of paraplegia. Paraplegia occurs when the thoracic region of the spine is damaged. This typically means that a person loses sensation in the abdomen and chest areas, as well as some of the back muscles and down through the legs and feet. Some other commonly seen complications include the following:

  • Loss of leg movement
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Inability to perform sexually
  • Circulation issues
  • Respiratory complications
  • Muscles spasms

Although a person will lose much of his ability to move, this is not necessarily a permanent paralysis. In fact, some people experience a temporary paralysis; with much physical therapy, the brain can make new pathways to communicate with the body, resulting in improvement in motor function. However, this takes a lot of time and commitment because, unfortunately, there is no “quick fix” cure for those diagnosed with paraplegia.

Tetraplegia and Quadriplegia

Tetraplegia is commonly referred to as quadriplegia, though they are the same type of paralysis. Tetraplegia is more complete than paraplegia, in that it affects the torso as well as both the arms and the legs. It occurs when the cervical region of the spine has been damaged. This means that a person typically loses feeling and function from the neck down. This type of injury of the spine makes breathing extremely difficult, which is why some who have been injured need ventilators to help with breathing.

There are many complications experienced by those who have been diagnosed with tetraplegia. These are the most commonly seen:

  • Loss of limb movement
  • Stinging and pain sensations
  • Loss of bowel and bladder control
  • Respiratory issues
  • Blood clots
  • Muscle spasms
  • Pressure sores

The treatments available for those diagnosed with tetraplegia vary, depending on the injury to the spinal cord. For those who have been injured, surgery may be necessary to remove foreign objects from the injury itself or to relieve pressure or swelling. Various medications are also considered for treatment.

While doctors continue working on experimental therapies and procedures to restore function to those who experience paralysis, the truth is those living with some form of paralysis will need compensation for their losses — loss of wages, loss of independence — and for other financial needs, including medical bills and assistance. Even compensation for mental and emotional consideration can be received.

At Shevlin Smith, we understand what you are going through and would like to help you receive the maximum compensation. Contact our law firm for a free consultation at (703) 591-0067 to speak with a personal injury lawyer who understands spinal cord injuries and is experienced in handling these types of lawsuits.