Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) happens when the spinal cord is damaged due to a disease of the vertebral column or a traumatic injury to the spinal cord. Most spinal cord injuries occur when the spinal cord becomes bruised or swollen from the backbone pinching the spinal cord. More serious injuries may actually tear the spinal cord. When injury happens to the spinal cord, the nerves below the injury are unable to send messages between the brain and parts of the body as they did before the injury took place; nerves above the injury, on the other hand, continue working normally.
1. The location of a spinal cord injury is described by medical professionals by referring to the level of the vertebrae supporting the spinal cord. The top of the spinal cord consists of the cervical nerves, which are protected by the C1 through C8 and the T1 vertebrae. Next are the thoracic nerves, which are protected by the T2 through the T12, the lumbar nerves (L1 though L5), and the sacral nerves (S1 through S5).
Because a spinal cord injury affects the nerves below it, injuries higher on the spinal cord affect more bodily functions than lower injuries. An injury located between the C1 and the T1 vertebrae usually causes Tetraplegia (formerly known as quadriplegia) where the damaged cervical nerves affect the head, neck, diaphragm, deltoids, biceps, upper chest, arms and hands. Damage located between T2 and S5 generally causes paraplegia. A paraplegic can have a loss of feeling or not be able to move the chest, stomach, hips, legs and feet.
Loss of control in the bladder and bowels, loss of sexual function, loss of the body’s ability to control its temperature, and chronic pain are other consequences of spinal cord injury.
The severity of spinal cord injuries are classified as “complete” or “incomplete.” “Complete” injuries to the spinal cord occur when the injured person has no voluntary motor conscious sensory function below the location of the injury. Otherwise the spinal cord injury is considered “incomplete.”
About 11,000 Americans per year sustain a spinal cord injury, and almost 200,000 people in the U.S. live with a disability resulting from a spinal cord injury. Motor vehicle collisions account for the greatest number of spinal cord injuries in persons under 65. Falls account for the greatest amount of these injuries in persons 65 and older. Sports and other recreational activities cause 18% of spinal cord injuries, mostly to people 15 to 29 years old.
There is hope. At least a partial recovery occurs for most people. The average person with a “complete” injury recovers about 8% of lost function. People who received the proper dose of methylprednisolone in time recovered an average of 21% of function. Incomplete injuries faired better with 59% recovery for people that did not receive any methylprednisolone treatment and 75% for those who did receive methylprednisolone treatment.
Common Causes of SCI
Spinal cord injuries can be caused by any number of traumatic events. The following list includes some possible causes of spinal cord injury:
Diving into shallow water heard first
Head-first sports maneuvers such as sliding into a base or tackling
Failure to use a spotter for gymnastics moves
Slips and Falls
Crime—muggings, batteries, other acts of violence
Falling from a high place
Specific Names of Spinal Cord Injury
Some spinal cord injuries have specific names:
Central Cord Syndrome: arm function is affected more than the legs due to damage to the central part of the spinal cord, particularly the lateral spinal tracts.
Brown-Sequard Syndrome: injuries to only one side of the spinal cord. For example, a person might have loss of temperature sensation in one leg and loss of touch in the other.
Anterior Cord Syndrome: the victim experiences loss of motor function but not loss of touch or heat sensation.
Posterior Cord Syndrome: the opposite of Anterior Cord Syndrome. The victim experiences touch or heat sensation but not loss of motor function.
Conus Medullaire: injury to the lower tip of the spinal cord (conus).
Cauda Equina Injury: damage is limited to the spinal roots below L1.
Immediate Medical Attention is Required
Immediate medical help is necessary for someone who has sustained a spinal cord injury. There have been many advances in spinal cord injury treatment. Drugs such as methylprednisolone decrease the swelling to the spinal cord as long as it is administered close to the time of injury. The quicker you get emergency help, the better chance you have of recovery. If you suffer an injury to your spinal cord, call 911 and get immediate medical assistance.
Resources for Victims of Spinal Cord Injuries
If you or a loved one have suffered a spinal cord injury, here are some internet resources which may assist you:
The National Spinal Cord Injury Association
is a national organization that supports people living with spinal cord injuries. Click the following link to visit their web site:http://www.spinalcord.org/index.php
The Shepherd Center,
located in Atlanta, GA, is one of the nation’s leading rehabilitation hospitals and specializes in the treatment of people with spinal cord injuries as well as other neurological disorders. Click the following link to visit their web site:http://www.shepherd.org/research/spinal.asp
The US Department of Veterans Affairs Charlie Norwood VA Medical
Center in Augusta, GA offers tertiary care for veterans with spinal cord injury. Click the following link to visit their web site:
The Brain and Spinal Injury Trust Fund
Commission supports Georgians who have traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries. Their services include administering the Central Registry to identify those who are injured, distributing resources through the Trust Fund, and advocating for improvements in statewide services. Click the following link to visit their web site:
Inc. is a Marietta, GA based company that provides private duty home care services, including licensed practical nurses, registered nurses, certified nursing assistants, and personal care attendants to individuals in their homes or transitional housing. Click the following link to visit their web site:
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke’s (NINDS)
has a clearinghouse of information on spinal cord injury. The NINDS is part of the National Institutes of Health. To view their spinal cord injury information page, click the following link:
Seek Experienced Legal Assistance
Legal cases involving spinal cord injury require an attorney who has a thorough understanding of all the aspects of SCI and is experienced in handling such cases. If you or a loved one has sustained a spinal cord injury due to an accident or assault, call attorney Anthony Van Johnson at 404-551-2428. Do not delay as you may have a valid claim and may be entitled to compensation for injuries, but a lawsuit must be filed before the applicable statute of limitations expires. https://www.vanjohnsonlaw.us .