Is There a Cure for Spinal Cord Injuries?
In America, 17,500 people sustain an injury to their spinal cord every year. To put that into perspective, this means every day, 48 people suffer a new spinal cord injury. The majority of these injuries are caused by motor vehicle accidents, slip and falls, and violent attacks, such as assault.
To determine the specific body parts that will be affected by paralysis or loss of function, the level of spinal cord injury must first be determined. Unfortunately, restricted movement is not the only injury a person will suffer when the spinal cord has sustained damage. A person may also have difficulty breathing, or they may experience bowel or bladder dysfunction.
Types of Spinal Cord Injuries
There are many different types of spinal cord injuries. Healthcare professionals typically classify these injuries as either complete or incomplete. Complete injuries result in a person losing all control and feeling in the parts of the body that are below the injury. An incomplete spinal cord injury may leave a person with partial feeling, sensation, or control in the affected area. Either way, a spinal cord injury is usually considered a catastrophic injury. The most common types of spinal cord injuries are as follows:
- Cervical spinal injury: The cervical spine is located at the top of the spinal column and it includes the vertebrae in the neck. Because this is located close to the brain, it means these injuries are some of the most severe. The cervical spine is also the largest portion of the spine. These injuries commonly cause tetraplegia or quadriplegia, which is the inability to move the arms and legs, or anything from the neck down.
- Thoracic spinal injury: Injuries to the thoracic spine affect the upper and middle portions of the back. The lower back muscles, abdomen, and legs can also be affected by a thoracic spinal injury. A thoracic spinal injury will commonly result in paraplegia, meaning a person has movement in their arms and hands, but not their legs or trunk.
- Lumbar spinal injury: The lumbar area of the spine is in the lower portion of the spinal column. The vertebrae in this area are larger, since they must support more weight than in any other portion of the spine. It is not uncommon for people to lose function in their hips and legs, but most retain movement and sensation in the upper portion of their body. Some individuals may find assistive devices such as wheelchairs and braces helpful for moving around.
- Sacral spinal injury: The sacral spine is situated above the tailbone and this portion of the spinal column controls movement in the hips, groin, and back of the thighs. Bladder and bowel control is also sometimes affected, but injuries to the sacral spine will not affect a person’s ability to walk.
Is There a Cure for Spine Injuries?
Although many scientific advancements have been made over recent years, there is still not a cure for spinal cord injuries today. The advancements that have been made have focused on limiting the extent of damages sustained at the time of injury.
How Long Does it Take to Recover from a Spinal Cord Injury?
If you have sustained a spinal cord injury, it is natural to wonder if you will ever recover from it. Any damage to the spinal cord will cause it to swell to some degree, and that swelling affects nearly every other system in the body. Swollen parts of the spine may improve in a few days or several weeks after the accident that caused the injury. The majority of patients with spinal cord injuries regain partial function, movement, and sensation within 18 months of treatment. This is particularly true with incomplete spinal injuries.
In rarer cases, individuals have been known to regain some function several years after sustaining the injury. Unfortunately, it is only a small percentage of injured individuals that make a full recovery after suffering from this type of injury.
Will I Need a Wheelchair?
Severe spinal cord injuries will require an automatic wheelchair, while those that are less serious can be accommodated by a manual wheelchair. Still, not everyone that suffers a spinal cord injury will require the use of a wheelchair.
Many people that suffer a spinal cord injury are able to walk with the assistance of braces or crutches. Still, even these individuals choose to use wheelchairs in certain instances, such as when they have to travel a long distance.
Prognosis for Spinal Cord Injury Patients
The life expectancy of victims suffering from a spinal cord injury varies depending on the level and type of injury. About 85 percent of individuals who survive the first day after the injury will live for ten years or longer. The most common causes of fatality are diseases that affect the respiratory system, such as pneumonia. Pneumonia is the most common cause of death in the fifteen years following a spinal cord injury.
Parasitic and infectious diseases are the second most common cause of death following a spinal cord injury. These diseases include urinary tract infections, infections of the respiratory system, and decubitus ulcers. Cancer is the third most common cause of death, followed by heart disease.
Rehabilitation After a Spinal Cord Injury
You will likely have a team of rehabilitation specialists helping you recover after a spinal cord injury. You may work with a physical therapist, occupational therapist, rehabilitation nurse, social worker, dietitian, and more.
In the beginning days of treatment, the focus will likely be on strengthening and maintaining your existing muscle functions. Then the focus will shift to redeveloping your fine motor skills, and learning adaptive techniques so you can once again perform daily tasks.
Call Our Personal Injury Lawyer in New York City to Claim Full Damages
A spinal cord injury is catastrophic and will have a major impact on your life. Treatment is also very expensive. If you have been hurt, our New York City personal injury lawyer at Silberstein, Awad & Miklos, P.C. can help you recover financial compensation from the negligent party that caused your injury. Call us today at 1-877-ASK4SAM or contact us online to schedule a free consultation and to learn more about your legal options.