Spinal Injury - Malpractice Lawyers Compensation ClaimLEGAL HELPLINE: ☎ 855 804 7125
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Spinal Injury - Medical Malpractice
Spinal injuries can occur with sports injuries, severe falls, other violent injuries, gunshot injuries and motor vehicle injuries. Many spinal injuries affect the spinal cord and cause paralysis. Statistically, 450,000 individuals in the US have spinal cord injuries every year and new cases top 10,000 cases each year. Most of the injuries occur in men, especially between the ages of 16 and 30 years (about 82 percent). The damage to the spinal cord can cause dysfunction of the sensory and motor function of the lower extremities or upper and lower extremities together. The spinal cord does not have to be severed completely in order to have a spinal cord injury. You can also break your back and cause a spinal injury that does not affect the spinal cord at all. In such cases, doctors can stabilize the vertebrae of the back and no paralysis results.
A spinal cord injury can affect anywhere from the base of the skull to the sacrum. The spinal cord extends from just below the brainstem to about the mid waist. After that the spinal cord breaks up into several spinal nerves that travel down to the other vertebral openings until it reaches the low back and sacrum. If the spinal cord is injured, there is no information passed beyond that point and paralysis ensues. The higher the level of the spinal cord injury, the more of the spinal cord is not working.
The nerves in the spinal cord are called upper motor neurons and the branches that branch out of the spinal cord are called lower motor neurons. The peripheral nerves of the body are also called lower motor neurons. When the upper motor neurons are affected, there is paralysis and spasticity of the affected muscles below the level of the damage. If the lower motor neurons are affected, there is flaccidity of the muscles at the level of the injury. There are both sensory and motor nerves in the spinal cord and both are affected in a spinal injury.
The spinal cord is generally protected by the vertebrae. If these bones travel out of proportion to one another, such as in a twisting or lateral injury, the spinal cord can be stretched or severed, resulting in a spinal injury. The top vertebrae include C1-C7 vertebrae, the cervical vertebrae. They result in quadriplegia if the spinal cord is affected. Vertebrae below that are T1-T12, which, if injured, result in paraplegia. Damage to L1 to L5 can also affect the lower extremities as well but to a lesser degree. Quadriplegia involves damage to both arms and legs. Paraplegia involves damage to the legs only and sometimes the trunk.
Effects of spinal cord injury depend on how complete the spinal cord is transected. The spinal cord can be cut just in half, leading to problems on one side of the body but not so much on the other side of the body. The motor neurons cross over so the opposite side of the body is affected but the sensory nerves do not cross over in the spinal cord, so the same side of the body is affected with loss of sensation. An incomplete injury means that some function is preserved and some function is not preserved.
There are excellent treatments for spinal cord injuries of late so there are more people who have some function below the level of the injury than before, with the exception of a transected cord. Rehabilitation has done a great deal to preserve some of the function of the nerves below the level of the injury.
Cervical injuries to C1 down to C7 result in paralysis of the arms and legs. If the cervical injury is above C4, there may need to be ventilator support for breathing. C5 injuries affect the shoulder and biceps control. C6 injuries damage everything down to the wrists. Injuries to C7 and sometimes T1 allow you to have no function of the hands or the rest of the upper extremities.
T1 to T8 injuries involve truncal problems and an inability to sit without support. Legs are also affected. If the injury is low, at T9-T12, the trunk functions well but the legs are affected. The legs are completely paralyzed at that level. Lumbar and sacral problems to the spinal nerves affect varying muscles of the legs, with foot control, bowel and bladder function being affected the last.LEGAL HELPLINE: ☎ 855 804 7125