Spinal cord injuries are traumatic events that can lead to significant and long-lasting changes in a person’s life, affecting their mobility, sensory function and independence.
The spinal cord is a vital part of the central nervous system responsible for transmitting messages between the brain and the rest of the body. The effects of a spinal cord injury largely depend on the location and severity of the injury. The spinal cord is divided into four main regions: cervical, thoracic, lumbar and sacral. The level of injury is a critical factor in determining the potential impacts on body function.
Cervical injuries occur at the neck level and are the most severe type of spinal cord injury due to their location high up on the spinal cord. This region controls functions such as breathing, movement of the arms and hands, and the diaphragm. An injury in this area can result in quadriplegia or tetraplegia, meaning paralysis of all four limbs. Depending on the specific vertebrae affected, a person might require mechanical assistance breathing and likely experience loss of physical sensation and mobility below the neck.
Thoracic injuries involve the mid-back area and affect the chest, upper abdomen and back muscles. Injuries to the thoracic spinal cord can result in paraplegia, which is paralysis of the legs and lower body. Individuals with thoracic spinal cord injuries typically retain the use of their arms and hands. They may use wheelchairs for mobility and can have varying degrees of control over their trunk and abdominal muscles.
Lumbar injuries occur in the lower back. This region controls signals to the lower parts of the abdomen, back, buttocks, some parts of the external genital organs and parts of the legs. An injury here can also result in paraplegia, with effects on leg movement, control over the bladder and bowels and sexual function. People with lumbar spinal cord injuries may be able to walk with braces or aids, although many rely on wheelchairs for mobility.
Sacral injuries involve the area of the spine located below the lumbar spine and above the tailbone. This region controls signals to the thighs, lower parts of the legs, feet, and most of the external genital organs. Individuals with injuries to the sacral spinal cord can often walk and may have some degree of impairment in hip and leg movement, as well as in sexual, bladder and bowel function.
Regardless of the level and type of spinal cord injury a victim suffers, they’re likely going to need costly care. When the cause of an injury was negligence by another party, they may opt to file a compensation claim. Legal guidance is critical in these cases, so that the maximum amount of compensation owed can be pursued as efficiently and effectively as possible.