Spinal Cord Injuries: Its Common Causes and Effects

For the millions of people affected each year by spinal cord injuries, their lives will never be the same as before the damage occurred. For many of these cases, the truly appalling fact is that their injury could have been avoided. In this article, we’ll take a look at the most common causes and effects of spinal cord injuries, how to prevent them and what to do if someone else’s negligence causes the damage.

An Attorney Can Help Ensure Compensation

Having one’s life turned upside down because of a spinal cord injury is a position where no one wants to find themselves. But when this damage is caused by negligence, it’s essential to contact a legal professional to ensure fair and accurate compensation.

Common Causes of Spinal Cord Injury

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, traumatic fall and automobile accidents cause most spinal cord injuries. According to their findings, over 80% of spinal cord injuries are caused by trauma. Their study also showed that most of these injuries occurred over weekends and during warmer periods of the year.

Different Types of Spinal Cord Injury

There are two basic types of spinal cord injury, complete and incomplete. A complete spinal cord injury happens when a person has no sensation and cannot move anything below the damaged area. An incomplete spinal cord injury results in a partial feeling or ability to move below the injured area.

A grading scale has been devised to describe the severity of spinal cord injuries. The system uses letters A through E, with A meaning complete spinal cord injury with no sensation or movement, and E meaning normal sensory and function.

Symptoms of Damage  

The location of the spinal cord injury can determine the symptoms of the damage. The spine is divided up into four levels cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and sacrum. Each section controls a different part of the body. The most severe level for injury is the cervical level which includes the head and neck areas. An injury to this level can result in quadriplegia, which is the absence of movement or feeling below the neck.

With spinal cord injuries, the higher on the spine the damage occurs is usually the worst outcome for the patient, with many requiring 24-hour care for the rest of their lives. People with injuries at this level may not be able to breathe on their own or control bladder and bowel function. 

Patients with these injuries tend to have a lower life expectancy, with the principal causes of death being pneumonia and pulmonary embolism. Other significant causes of death for spinal cord injury include subsequent trauma, heart disease, and suicide.

People with thoracic and lumbar spinal cord damage will probably have regular use of the upper body along with the arms and hands. Injuries at his level typically result in paraplegia with the inability to walk on their own. Most people can ambulate using a manual wheelchair and even drive using a modified vehicle.

Treatment and Recovery

Treatment and recovery options for those suffering from spinal cord injuries include occupational and physical therapy along with counseling. But surgery is the initial standard treatment to avoid further damage to delicate spinal tissue. X-rays and other imaging tests are used to determine the level and amount of damage to the spine to put an appropriate treatment plan into place to help the patient reach their full potential.