The spinal cord is a system of nerve tissues that connects to the body’s brainstem. As the most crucial part of the central nervous system, the spinal cord is essential for movement. Injuries to the spinal cord may cause partial or full paralysis. It can also limit function, such as the ability to eat or breathe on one’s own. Spinal cord injuries can leave a person disabled, requiring ongoing medical and rehabilitative care for the rest of their life. In the United States, about 17,000 spinal cord injuries occur each year, and over 280,000 people are living with a spinal cord injury.
What are Spinal Cord Injuries?
A spinal cord injury (SCI) occurs when serious damage results in loss of mobility or function. Doctors categorize spinal cord injuries into two main categories, including complete and incomplete. A complete spinal cord injury happens when the victim has no capacity below the location of the damage. An incomplete SCI means that the person has some function below the primary injury location.
The location of the injury may determine the severity of the injuries and whether the SCI is incomplete or complete. The top vertebrae are called the cervical spine, those in the chest area are called the thoracic vertebra, those in the lower back are called the thoracic vertebra, and those in the pelvic region are the lumbar vertebra. Each area controls various functions.
For instance, most SCIs that occur to the neck often result in quadriplegia. Patients with injuries that arise above the C-4 level might require a ventilator to breathe. Partial SCI may allow a patient to move their hands but not their trunk. Each injury is different, depending on the exact location of the damage.
Causes and Treatment of Spinal Cord Injuries
Most spinal cord injuries are due to a traumatic event such as a car accident. Fewer SCI occurs because of disease. The majority of spinal cord injuries occur due to vehicle accidents. Other causes include sports accidents, falls, and violence. Some signs and symptoms of SCI include loss of movement, reduced sensations, loss of control of bowel or bladder, spasms, pain or stinging feeling, and difficulty breathing.
SCI is a problematic situation that requires immediate emergency medical attention. Swelling immediately following the injury may subside and provide for evaluation. There is no cure for spinal cord injuries. Some treatments involve stabilizing the injury and treating the resulting inflammation. Surgery is often required, and treatment may be ongoing for several weeks, months, and years. Doctors continually concentrate on reducing the potential complications that can occur with these injuries, such as the threat of pneumonia.
Spinal cord injury patients may require extensive assistance to help with daily activities and medications. The costs of treatment over a lifetime can be high. If you were hurt in a car accident, the negligent party should pay all your damages. Contacting a car accident lawyer should be a top priority after an accident.