brain MRI side views

What is a Spinal Cord Injury?

A Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) is damage to your spinal cord, the tubular structure that contains nerves and cells responsible for conducting electrical signals to and from your brain. These signals are essential for bodily sensations and movement, among other things. 


What Causes a Spinal Cord Injury?

Damage to the spinal cord can result from direct trauma to the area or from injuries to the surrounding muscles and vertebrae (the spine). Motor vehicle accidents and traumatic falls are the top causes of spinal cord injury in the United States. 


What Are Symptoms of a SCI?

Some spinal cord injuries may exhibit only minor symptoms or no symptoms at all. More severe injuries can affect movement and sensation and may be permanent. SCI’s can result in a wide variety of symptoms, depending which part of the cord was damaged and to what extent. Some of the more common symptoms include: 

  • Changes in sensation (numbness, tingling, or complete loss of sensation in the extremities)
  • Paralysis 
  • Trouble Breathing
  • Pain/pressure, especially in the head, neck, or back
  • Weakness or loss of movement in body parts
  • Bowel/bladder incontinence or urgency
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Difficulty walking


How is SCI Diagnosed?

SCI is generally diagnosed based on a combination of patient history, symptom presentation, and imaging. An MRI can determine damage to soft tissues, like the spinal cord and brain.


How are Spinal Cord Injuries Treated?

Immediate response is crucial in treating SCIs. If spinal cord injury is suspected at the scene of an accident, the individual will be typically immobilized with a hard neck (cervical) collar and placed on a backboard for safe transport to the hospital. 

Once at the hospital, imaging can determine next steps. These may include removing bone fragments and re-aligning the spine.

Physical rehabilitation is almost always part of the long-term treatment of spinal cord injuries. Further supportive care may include breathing assistance and mental health resources. The patient can expect to have a long-term rehabilitation care plan developed with his/her/their physician. Again, this will depend on the type and extent of injuries sustained. 


What is the Prognosis for a Spinal Cord Injury?

Unfortunately, there is no universal answer to this question. The prognosis for a SCI depends on various factors, but especially the location of injury and the amount of damage. 

In many instances, individuals suffer what is called an incomplete spinal cord injury. This means that the spinal cord has maintained some of its nerve function. In these cases, the prognosis is more optimistic for regaining some or all motor function and sensation.

There are also cases where a person has sustained a complete spinal cord injury. This can result in total loss of function, or paralysis, below the site of injury. If the trauma occurred in the neck, for example, a person might experience paralysis of all four limbs (quadriplegia). If it occurred in the lower back, the individual may experience paralysis of the legs (paraplegia) 


Complications of SCI

Unfortunately, there are additional complications and chronic conditions associated with spinal cord injuries. Even if the patient is successfully treated for the initial injury, he/she/they may endure chronic pain, bowel/bladder issues, and other functional impairments. Individuals who have survived SCI may also be more prone to respiratory and cardiac ailments. 


Can I File Suit for a Spinal Cord Injury?

If you have suffered a spinal cord injury as a result of someone else’s negligence, such as in a motor vehicle accident, you should absolutely seek assistance from a personal injury attorney. In such situations, you have the right to sue for a variety of damages, including medical costs, pain and suffering, and loss of income.

A spinal cord injury can be a life-changing event. The pain and emotional suffering, not to mention the vast medical costs incurred, deserve compassion and justice. David Roth is a top personal injury lawyer in Denver and has helped hundreds of clients claim a fair settlement. Please call or go online to schedule your free consultation so we can help.

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