Personal Injury: Spinal Cord Injury

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Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal cord injury refers to an injury to the spinal cord. Spinal cord injury can cause paraplegia and quadriplegia. Paraplegia and quadriplegia are spinal cord injuries with no known cure. The spinal cord injuries are extreme in nature and have the potential to impede the future enjoyment of life of the unfortunate victim, particularly if the injury is accompanied by financial hardship. If you are suffering a paraplegic or quadriplegic injury because of someone else’s negligence or medical malpractice, you may be eligible for some benetits.

Spinal cord injury accidents in Canada

A spinal cord injury can lead to partial or complete paralysis of the arms or legs, as well as loss of sensation in certain areas of the body, muscle spasms, pain, and loss of bowel and bladder control. The degree of paralysis depends upon the level and the extent of injury to the spinal cord. Spinal cord injury accidents in Canada are quite high, with almost 35 people per million population becoming victims of it every year. Statistics reveal that approximately 900 Canadians sustain severe spinal cord accidents and injuries such as paraplegia and quadriplegia every year. On average, 80% of all clients referred to different spinal injury treatment centers every year, are male. Car accidents are the primary cause for a majority of the spinal cord injuries. They form the reason, directly or indirectly for 35% of the spinal cord injury cases. Collapsing and slipping cases cause 16.5% of the spinal cord injuries. Medical injuries, sport injuries and diving injuries each contribute 10.8%, 6.7% and 5.3% to the spinal cord injurycases, respectively.

Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal cord injury can cause myelopathy or damage to nerve roots or myelinated fiber tracts that carry signals to and from the brain. Depending on its classification and severity, this type of traumatic injury could also damage the grey matter in the central part of the cord, causing segmental losses of interneurons and motor neurons The effects of a spinal cord injury may vary depending on the type, level, and severity of injury, but can be classified into two general categories:

  • In a complete injury, function below the “neurological” level is lost. Absence of motor and sensory function below a specific spinal level is considered a “complete injury”. Recent evidence suggests that less than 5% of people with “complete” spinal cord injuries recover locomotion.
  • In an incomplete injury, some sensation and/or movement below the level of the injury is retained. The lowest spinal segment in humans is located at vertebral levels S4-5, corresponding to the anal sphincter and peri-anal sensation. The ability to contract the anal sphincter voluntarily or to feel peri-anal pinprick or touch, the injury is considered to be “incomplete”. Recent evidence suggests that over 95% of people with “incomplete” spinal cord injuries recover some locomotor function

In addition to loss of sensation and motor function below the level of injury, individuals with spinal cord injuries will also often experience other complications:

  • Bowel and bladder function is regulated by the sacral region of the spine. In that regard, it is very common to experience dysfunction of the bowel and bladder, including infections of the bladder and anal incontinence, after traumatic injury.
  • Sexual function is also associated with the sacral spinal segments, and is often affected after injury. During a psychogenic sexual experience, signals from the brain are sent to spinal levels and, in case of men, are then relayed to the penis where they trigger an erection. A reflex erection, on the other hand, occurs as a result of direct physical contact to the penis or other erotic areas such as the ears, nipples or neck. A reflex erection is involuntary and can occur without sexually stimulating thoughts. The nerves that control a man’s ability to have a reflex erection are located in the sacral nerves of the spinal cord and could be affected after a spinal cord injury.
  • Injuries at the C-1/C-2 levels will often result in loss of breathing, necessitating mechanical ventilators or phrenic nerve pacing.
  • Inability or reduced ability to regulate heart rate, blood pressure, sweating and hence body temperature.
  • Spasticity (increased reflexes and stiffness of the limbs)
  • Neuropathic pain
  • Autonomic dysreflexia or abnormal increases in blood pressure, sweating, and other autonomic responses to pain or sensory disturbances.
  • Atrophy of muscle
  • Superior Mesenteric Artery Syndrome
  • Osteoporosis (loss of calcium) and bone degeneration
  • Gallbladder and renal stones

There are many medical complications that follow a spinal cord injury.

  • Spastic muscles, where the muscles tighten up in abnormal positions, are quite common. Especially where the injury is incomplete, considerable pain can be associated with this condition. Massage and anti-spastic medications are used to relieve the symptoms.
  • The other opposite symptom involves muscles that are completely limp. Physical therapy can help to maintain muscle tone, and special equipment may be worn to support the joints.
  • Chronic pain
  • Bladder and bowel dysfunction is a constant concern, especially for complete spinal injuries, but can also be an issue for those with partial spinal injuries.
  • Heart irregularities, low blood pressure, and other heart problems, including blood clots, are a serious concern in many cases.
  • Respiratory problems are especially common with quadriplegia.

 

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Author: AllOntario Team

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