The spinal cord is a bundle of nerve tissues that runs from the brain to the lower back. Its primary function is to send sensory information from the trunk, arms, and legs of the body upward to the brain. Damage to the spinal cord can have a severe impact on the body, including full or partial paralysis.
Types of Spinal Cord Injury
Broadly speaking, there are two main types of spinal cord injuries: complete and incomplete.
- Complete spinal cord injuries result in the total loss of ability to feel and move parts of the body below the level of the injury. For example, a complete spinal cord injury located near the lower back would cause full paralysis of the legs.
- Incomplete spinal cord injuries result in the partial loss of ability to feel and move parts of the body below the level of injury. In the case of an incomplete spinal cord injury located near the lower back, the person may still have some ability to move the legs, but be unable to walk.
Treatment of spinal cord injuries can involve trauma care, surgery and/or physical therapy.
The first eight hours following a spinal cord injury are critical to recovery. Medical personnel will immobilize the body to help prevent further injury to the spine. While each injury is different, steroids will typically be administered to reduce swelling of the spine. Depending on the circumstances, surgery may be required within eight hours following the injury.
Depending on the seriousness of the injury, surgery may be required almost immediately or within the days or weeks following the injury. Surgery may be needed to remove bone fragments, fractured vertebrae, or herniated disks that are compressing the spine. Surgery may also be needed to stabilize the spine. Other surgical procedures performed later in the recovery process may also be recommended. For example, tendon transfer surgery has been shown to help some patients regain more control of their arms and hands. This type of surgery will not be considered until at least a year after the injury.
Physical therapy will almost always be required as a part of the recovery process. Physical therapy involves exercise programs geared toward strengthening the muscles. Other forms of therapy may be designed to help patients redevelop motor skills that were lost or impaired after the injury. Often, the rehabilitation process will be aided with devices that help a patient's mobility such as a wheelchair, walker, or leg brace until the patient has progressed enough to walk without their aid.
Getting Legal Help
If you or a loved one has suffered a spinal cord injury, you are aware that the road to recovery can be difficult. While making a full recovery is the most important thing, the rehabilitation process can be slow and the medical bills can be expensive. If your spinal cord injury may have been the result of another party's negligence, you need to consult with a personal injury attorney to find out if you are entitled to compensation for your injury. Arnold & Itkin has helped our clients recover more than $1 billion in verdicts and settlements. Contact us for a free consultation about your legal rights.