What is the Spinal Cord?
The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves that extends from the base of the brain down the back. About 18 inches long, the spinal cord plays an important role in carrying messages back and forth from the brain to the nerves that reach the rest of the body. Together, the brain and spinal cord make up the Central Nervous System. Injury to the spinal cord from trauma, such as an auto accident, motorcycle accident, construction accident fall, or diving accident can cause permanent and irreparable damage and in some cases, complete paralysis.
The Vertebrae & Spinal Cord Injury Location
A spinal cord injury is identified based on the vertebra location where the injury occurs. Identifying the location of a spinal cord injury is helpful to doctors because they can determine which parts of the body will be effected. The vertebrae bones that make up the spinal column provide a protective barrier against injury, which is important because the spinal cord cannot repair itself once injured. The vertebra bones can be separated into sections based on their location. The top eight vertebra in the neck are the cervical vertebra. The next 12 vertebrae in chest are the thoracic vertebrae. The five vertebra in the lower back are the Lumbar vertebra, and the large triangular bone beneath that is the sacrum. It is possible to brake vertebra bones in the neck or back and not sustain injury to the spinal cord.
Complete vs. Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries can be classified as either complete or incomplete. Complete spinal cord injuries cause complete loss of function below the level of injury. Almost all complete spinal cord injuries cause permanent loss of function and sensation. Current research using stem cells holds some hope for restoring function and sensation in the spinal cord. A person with an incomplete spinal cord injury will have some degree of sensation, movement or function below the level of spinal cord injury, although it may be very limited. No two spinal cord injuries are the same, especially incomplete injuries. Because of advancement in the acute, immediate medical treatment of spinal cord injuries, incomplete spinal cord injuries are becoming more common. Some research suggests that more than 95% of patients with incomplete spinal cord injuries are able to recover some function or sensation.
The Effects of Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury
Paraplegia is one effect of many spinal cord injuries, causing impairment in motor and sensory function. Paralysis affecting the arms is called Tetraplegia. Common effects of spinal cord injuries include loss of breathing (injuries of the C-1 and C-2), inability or compromised ability to regulate body temperature and blood pressure, increased stiffness of the limbs, loss of bowel and bladder function, and loss of sexual function. Some patients with incomplete spinal cord injuries may be able to walk for short distances.
Spinal Cord Injury Long-Term Care and Rehabilitation
Spinal cord injury victims may require expensive long-term care and rehabilitation therapy. Treatment will vary from person to person, but incomplete spinal cord injury victims may benefit from long-term rehabilitation programs, vocational rehabilitation, automobile training and other neurorehabilitation and therapy. Additional, spinal cord injury victims may need to regularly visit doctors, neurologists, physical therapists, psychologists and other care providers. Long-term care can exceed hundreds of thousands of dollars over a victim's lifetime. In cases where an injury was caused by the fault of another person or company, a spinal cord injury attorney can help secure needed funds so that patients can receive the care and support they need and deserve.
If someone close to you has sustained a spinal cord injury, you should contact an experienced, qualified personal injury attorney. You may be entitled to lifelong financial compensation from the party responsible for your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and rehabilitation costs. Compensation from a spinal cord injury lawsuit or settlement can relieve financial pressures and allow victims to receive the best possible medical care.