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How Serious Are Complete and Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries?

 Posted on August 30, 2023 in Car Accidents

Winnebago County, ILA spinal cord injury can have a huge impact on a person's life. The severity of the injury depends on whether it is classified as complete or incomplete, as well as the part of the spine that was injured. Understanding these factors is crucial when looking at the long-term effects of a spinal cord injury. Those who have suffered these types of injuries because of the negligence of others can work with an attorney to determine their options for seeking compensation.

The Difference Between Complete and Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries

It is important to understand how complete spinal cord injuries differ from incomplete spinal cord injuries. A complete spinal cord injury may result in a total loss of function below the level of the spine where the injury occurred. It will usually involve the spinal cord being cut or damaged severely. 

In contrast, an incomplete spinal cord injury may involve a partial loss of sensory or motor function. These cases may involve partial damage to the spinal cord due to broken vertebrae or herniated discs. The level of function a person may be able to maintain can depend on several factors, including the location and severity of the injury.

Levels of Spinal Cord Injuries: How They Affect Different Parts of the Body

The spinal cord consists of different segments that transmit signals to specific parts of the body. When a spinal cord injury occurs at a certain level, it can result in varying degrees of impairment:

  1. Cervical spine: An injury at this level, which includes the vertebrae in the neck, can affect both arms, legs, trunk muscles, bowel control, bladder control, breathing ability, speech ability, and head or neck movements.

  2. Thoracic spine: Damage that occurs in the upper back may lead to leg paralysis, limited upper body mobility, problems with stability and balance in the torso, and impaired respiratory function in some cases.

  3. Lumbar spine: Injuries in the lower back can result in leg paralysis, loss of bowel and bladder control, sexual dysfunction, and limited hip movement.

  4. Sacral spine: Damage to the sacral region at the bottom of the spine or the tailbone may lead to loss of control over the bowels and bladder, sexual dysfunction, and weakness or paralysis in the hips and legs.

The Consequences of Complete Spinal Cord Injuries

A complete spinal cord injury often results in permanent disability. People with these types of injuries may experience a total loss of sensation and movement below the site of the injury. This can lead to various ongoing issues, including:

  • Paraplegia: Paralysis may affect both legs and possibly parts of the trunk.

  • Tetraplegia (quadriplegia): Paralysis may affect all four limbs as well as parts or all of the trunk.

  • Breathing difficulties: In some cases, respiratory muscles may be affected, and the use of a ventilator may be required.

  • Loss of bowel/bladder control: Catheters or colostomy bags may be required for waste elimination.

  • Sexual dysfunction: A person may experience impaired fertility and reduced reproductive function and sexual sensation.

  • Secondary health issues: Paralysis may lead to a higher risk of pressure sores, urinary tract infections, respiratory infections, osteoporosis, and muscle atrophy due to lack of movement.

The Impact of Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries

Incomplete spinal cord injuries offer more hope for partial or total recovery when compared to complete injuries. The ways a person may be affected can vary depending on the location and severity of the injury. Common issues related to incomplete spinal cord injuries include:

  • Loss of motor function: A person may experience weakness or paralysis in some muscle groups while still having some strength and mobility in others. Physical therapy can play a critical role in improving strength and coordination after this type of injury.

  • Loss of sensation: Sensory changes are common following an incomplete spinal cord injury. These may include issues such as numbness, tingling, increased or decreased sensitivity, or changes in the ability to perceive temperature.

  • Loss of bowel and bladder control: Incomplete spinal cord injury victims might have problems controlling urine or stool, requiring the use of catheters or other methods of managing these functions.

  • Pain and spasms: Some people may experience chronic pain or sensations such as burning, sharpness, or electric shocks. Muscle spasms are also common, and they can be painful and disruptive to daily life.

Contact Our Rockford Spinal Cord Injury Attorneys

Living with a spinal cord injury can be difficult. Apart from the physical and emotional effects, victims may also face financial issues as they work to recover from their injuries. At Mannarino & Brasfield, A Division of Schwartz Injury Law, our Winnebago County spinal cord injury lawyers can provide guidance for people who have been injured, helping them fight to receive compensation that will allow them to address the ways they have been affected. Contact us today at 815-215-7561 to schedule a free consultation. We are here for you during this difficult time.

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