A spinal cord injury can cause devastating and long lasting hardship for families and their loved ones. Such injury occurs when a traumatic impact fractures or dislocates vertebrae. During or after impact, loose bone fragments, disc material or ligaments injure spinal cord tissue either by bruising or tearing it.
There are different types of spinal cord injuries and some types are more severe than others. The two main classifications for spinal cord injuries are: complete injury and incomplete injury.
The majority of injuries are incomplete. As the name implies, this type of injury does not completely sever the spinal cord.
When an impact injury fractures and compresses vertebrae, it can cause damage to the extensions of nerve cells that carry signals through the spinal cord. If damage is incomplete, the individual can recover (partially or completely) and will be able to experience sensory and motor function in the area below the injury.
When injury damages numerous nerve extensions, completely severing spinal cord tissue, doctors diagnose the injury as complete. With complete injury, patients experience paralysis. They lose sensation and motor function.
Depending on where the spinal injury occurs and whether the injury is complete, it can cause different types of paralysis.
The spinal cord has four sections that affect different areas of the body:
Injury that occurs in the cervical region affects all four arms and legs, causing some degree of paralysis. Incomplete injury may result in numbness or tingling and some loss of function. Complete injury causes paralysis in all four limbs and is called tetraplegia (or quadriplegia). At its most severe, the injury can also disrupt the person's ability to breathe. In general, the higher the injury is on the spine, the more severe the resulting damage is.
Paraplegia refers to a spinal cord injury below the first thoracic levels. Complete injury causes paralysis from the waist down. With an incomplete injury to this area, the individual may experience minor mobility problems, tingling or reduced sensation in the lower body.
Injury in the lumbar area may result in problems with bladder control, sexual performance or leg function.
In many cases, immediate emergency treatment can minimize nervous system damages and help the person recover limited abilities. A steroid drug can be administered to reduce nerve cell damage. Rehabilitation programs that integrate physical therapy, skill building activities and counseling can also help patients during recovery.
If negligence caused an accident that resulted in a spinal cord injury, a spinal cord injury lawyer can investigate to see whether grounds and evidence exist to pursue a case. For example, in a car accident case, the attorney would prove that the other driver was at fault for the accident.
If accepted medical standards were not followed by emergency personnel or a hospital while treating a patient, and the malpractice worsened the spinal cord damage, then the spinal cord injury attorney would hire a medical expert to review medical records and testify regarding the malpractice.
If you suspect that someone else caused your loved one’s injury or death, seek legal counsel as soon as possible. At Sackstein Sackstein & Lee, LLP , we offer a free initial consultation to discuss your concerns and explain legal options that are available.
Call us toll free at 888.519.6400, or contact us in Garden City at 516.248.2234, or in Flushing-Queens, Brooklyn or the Bronx at 718.539.3100. You can also fill in our contact form, and we will get in touch with you.