Spinal cord injuries (SCIs) are among the most severe and life-altering injuries a person can experience. They occur when there is damage to the spinal cord. Understanding the nature of these injuries, including their types and impacts on the body, is crucial for both those affected and their loved ones.
The spinal cord plays a vital role in the body’s functionality and injury can have profound implications. The severity and the long-term effects of spinal cord injuries largely depend on the type of injury and its location along the spinal cord.
Complete versus incomplete spinal cord injuries
Complete SCIs come with a total loss of function below the injury level. This means there is no sensation or voluntary movement. Typically, both sides of the body are equally affected.
An incomplete SCI results in some function remaining below the primary level of the injury. Patients with incomplete injuries may retain some sensory or motor function and have varying degrees of control over body movements. These injuries typically have a better recovery than complete SCIs.
Impact of injury level on the body
Injuries are classified according to the spinal cord segment affected, such as cervical, thoracic, lumbar or sacral. Cervical injuries, occurring near the neck, can result in paralysis of all four limbs. Thoracic injuries typically affect the chest and lower parts of the body, potentially leading to paralysis of the lower body. Lumbar and sacral injuries, lower down the spine, can affect the hips, legs, bowel and bladder control.
Long-term effects of spinal cord injuries
The long-term effects of SCIs may include secondary conditions like chronic pain, pressure sores and increased susceptibility to respiratory and urinary infections. Individuals may go through stages of grief, depression or anxiety due to the drastic changes in their lifestyle and abilities. Long-term rehabilitation, support from medical professionals, and a strong support system are crucial for coping with these challenges.
Victims of SCIs may opt to pursue a compensation claim if their injurious incident was the result of negligence by another party. West Virginia limits the time victims have to get this filed, so promptly contacting someone familiar with these cases is critical.