Types of Spinal Cord Injury

Seriously Injured in Hawaii?

The spinal cord is a group of nerve fibers and tissue extending down the length of the spine. The spinal cord and the brain comprise the body’s central nervous system. Impulses are sent to and from the brain to various parts of the body through the nerve fibers within the spinal cord. When an injury causes damage to the spinal cord, communication between the brain and the rest of the body is hindered to a greater or lesser degree. Individuals who sustain spinal cord injuries generally experience diminished sensation in body parts below the point of impact, a lack of mobility, and reduced functionality of internal body organs. An acute spinal cord injury (SCI) can cause bruising, a partial tear or a full tear of the spinal cord. This type of injury often results in permanent disability or death.

Did you sustain a spinal cord injury caused by negligence? Take legal action by calling (808) 518-2120 for a free consultation.

Two Primary Types of Spinal Cord Injuries

There are two primary types of spinal cord injuries: complete and incomplete. When an individual sustains a complete SCI, he or she will have no sensation, mobility or functionality below the point of injury. Complete spinal cord injuries affect both sides of the body and can occur at any point on the spinal cord.

An incomplete injury is usually an indication of bruising or a tear on the spinal cord. With this type of injury there will be some level of functionality or sensation below the point of impact. One side of the body could be affected more than the other. It depends on the extent of the injury.

Common Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal cord injuries can result from a number of causes.

Some of the most common causes of spinal cord injuries are:

  • Falls
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Pedestrian accidents
  • Sports injuries
  • Industrial or work-related accidents
  • Trampoline injuries
  • Birth Injuries
  • Disease (such as Polio or Spina Bifida)
  • Assaults and other types of physical violence

Individuals whose bodies have been weakened due to a pre-existing physical condition, such as arthritis, will be more susceptible to sustaining spinal cord trauma in what would otherwise be considered as a minor accident or injury.

How Are Spinal Cord Injuries Classified?

Spinal cord injuries are classified by the type and extent of motor and sensory function loss. The spinal cord is protected by bones called vertebrae. This makes it convenient to classify the spinal cord in segments by the corresponding vertebrae and nerves.

Cervical injuries

Cervical injuries are those spinal cord injuries to either the C1 through C7 cervical vertebrae or the C1 through C8 cervical nerves. Cervical injuries can lead to quadriplegia or a complete loss of function or sensation in a person’s chest, arms, and legs. The respiratory system as well as bowel and bladder control can be impacted.

Thoracic injuries

Thoracic injuries occur to the T1 through T12 vertebrae or T1 through T12 nerves found in the chest and rib cage. These types of injuries primarily affect the chest or legs. Injuries sustained in the upper thoracic area can impact breathing. Thoracic injuries may lead to paraplegia, or in more severe cases, quadriplegia.

Lumbar injuries

Lumbar injuries are those sustained to the L1 through L5 vertebrae or to the L1 through L5 nerves. The lumbar area is located from the chest to the pelvis. Injuries to this portion of the spinal cord can affect the hips and legs, as well as bowel and bladder control. In more serious cases, this type of injury can result in triplegia or paraplegia.

Sacral injuries

Sacral injuries are injuries that occur to the spinal cord located between the pelvis and the end of the spine. As with lumbar injuries, injuries to the S1 through S5 vertebrae or to the S1 through S5 nerves can have an impact on a person’s hips, legs, bowel, and bladder control. This type of injury can also cause temporary or permanent triplegia or paraplegia.

Symptoms and Signs of a Spinal Cord Injury

Not all spinal cord injury victims experience the same type of symptoms or level of injury. The point of impact, severity of impact, pre-existing conditions, and other factors all contribute to the symptoms that an individual experiences.

If you or a loved one has suffered a spinal cord injury, here are some of the common symptoms:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Loss of mobility in the chest, trunk, arms or legs
  • Loss of sensation or feeling in the chest, trunk, arms or legs
  • Stiffness or tightening of muscles
  • Muscle spasms or exaggerated reflex activities
  • Significant pain or stinging sensation
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Significant increase or decrease in heart rate or blood pressure
  • Digestive problems
  • Loss of bowel and bladder control
  • Sexual dysfunction or sensitivity

Should you or your loved one experience extreme pain or pressure in your back, neck or head, paralysis, loss of sensation in your extremities, a complete loss of bowel or bladder control, difficulty maintaining balance or walking, impaired breathing or if you notice any deformity in your neck or back, seek emergency medical attention at once. Any individual who sustains an injury to the neck, back or head should seek medical assistance immediately. Delay in seeking treatment could lead to further complications.

Rehabilitating Spinal Cord Injuries

The problem with spinal cord injuries is that damage to the spinal cord is irreversible. There are, however, a variety of treatments and medical drugs that can help improve functionality of the remaining nerves and promote nerve cell regeneration. After an individual has sustained a SCI, it is important to begin a rehabilitation program as soon as possible. The goal is to help the spinal cord injury survivor regain the highest level of functionality and independence possible. As an individual becomes more self-sufficient and regains mobility, a dramatic improvement in his or her quality of life will often be seen.

Success at rehabilitating spinal cord injuries depends greatly on:

  • The type and extent of a person’s injury
  • The impairments he or she is currently experiencing and overall health
  • His or her personal attitude and system of familial support.

What Issues Will Be Addressed in a SCI Rehabilitation Program?

The scope of a rehabilitation program after a spinal cord injury depends on the extent of the injuries. People with quadriplegia will require long-term, around the clock care. Many will also require a ventilator or some other type of respiratory support, as well as a powered wheelchair to get around. With extensive work, even those with a significant SCI may be able to regain some level of independence and mobility.

Honolulu Personal Injury Lawyers Helping You Pursue Financial Compensation

If you or someone you love has experienced a spinal cord injury, our Honolulu personal injury attorneys are here to provide you with the legal representation and spinal cord injury support assistance you need. We understand the long-lasting effects such injuries have on your finances and quality of life. In cases where a SCI was sustained as a result of another person’s negligence, carelessness or intentional wrongdoing, the victim may have a legal right to pursue financial compensation for the injuries sustained.

To find out more about Leavitt Yamane & Soldner and the legal assistance we can provide, call us now.

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If you have sustained an injury and want to know if you are eligible to pursue legal action, it is important to obtain help right away. Call our firm at (808) 518-2120 or fill out the quick form below.

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