Each year, 17,500 people in the United States suffer from spinal cord injuries. This is 48 new injuries on a daily basis. Most of these people get injured in falls, auto accidents, sports-related accidents, and violence. Newly injured patients are generally aged 42.
Determining the level of spinal cord injury comes in helpful while predicting the exact body parts which may have been affected by the loss of function or paralysis. People with spinal cord injuries tend to suffer the loss of motor function and sensation along with other changes. For instance, they may experience bladder or bowel dysfunction or difficulty in breathing.
Spinal Cord Injury Types
Spinal cord injuries are of various different types in New York. Generally, doctors categorize these injuries as incomplete or complete spinal cord injuries. Complete injuries are the ones in which a person loses all control and feel of the body from below the spinal injury. People with incomplete spinal cord injuries may have some part of control or feeling in the affected area.
Cervical Spinal Injury
The cervical spine is the top portion of the spine which includes the neck vertebrae. Cervical spine injuries involve the largest portion of the spine. They are also the closest to the brain making them more severe. Injury to the cervical spine can result in quadriplegia or tetraplegia, which is the partial or full paralysis of the torso or the four limbs.
Thoracic Spinal Injury
The thoracic spine involves the middle and upper parts of the back. Thoracic spine injury tends to affect the muscles in the lower back, legs, and abdomen. People with thoracic spinal injury tend to have paraplegia. This means they may have paralysis in the legs and the trunk. However, they should be able to use their hands and arms.
Lumbar Spinal Injury
The lumbar spine is the lowest portion of the spine. This area has larger vertebrae since more weight is supported in the lower spinal region as compared to other areas. People with a lumbar spinal injury may lose function in their legs and hips. However, they tend to retain control in the upper part of their body. Some patients may be able to move about with the help of braces or a wheelchair.
Sacral Spinal Injury
The sacral spine is right above the tailbone. The nerves in this portion of the spinal cord are in control of the groin, hips, and back of the thighs. Sacral spinal injuries may also affect bowel and bladder control. However, people with this type of injury can still manage to walk.
Cure for Spinal Cord Injuries
There is currently no cure for injuries to the spinal cord. Researchers are working on this problem and there have been significant advancements made in the field. However, the advances can only result in reducing the extent of damage at the time of the injury.
Long Term Consequences of Spinal Cord Injury
Many people wonder if they will ever get better after sustaining a spinal cord injury. When this type of injury occurs, there is a swelling of the spinal cord. This can create ripples in almost every body system. The swelling may begin to come down after a few days or weeks. People may also regain some part of their functioning. With most injuries, especially the ones that are incomplete, the patient may recover partial functioning after about 18 months.
People with spinal cord injury in very rare cases may regain some functioning after a few years following the injury. However, a very tiny percentage of patients with this injury ever recover complete functioning.
Wheelchair and Spinal Cord Injuries
Everybody who gets injured in the spinal cord does not need a wheelchair for mobility. Power wheelchairs are recommended for people with high C-level injuries. People with low C-level injuries or below are recommended to use manual chairs.
Many people can ambulate using crutches and braces. The fact that a person uses braces or crutches doesn’t mean that they won’t ever use a wheelchair. People find wheelchairs useful for long distances even when they use braces. However, many find the activity and therapeutic levels of walking briefly and standing with braces better as opposed to using wheelchairs.
Life Expectancy of a Patient with Spinal Cord Injury
The level of injury will determine the life expectancy of the person with the spinal cord injury. Approximately, 85% of people with spinal cord injuries that get to survive the first 24 hours live on for 10 years and longer. Diseases of the respiratory system are the most common cause of death. Pneumonia is the primary cause of death during the first 15 years following spinal cord injuries for all age groups. This is for both males and females and people with quadriplegia.
Infectious and parasitic diseases are the second leading cause of death. Many people die of septicemia as well which is associated with urinary tract infections, decubitus ulcers, and respiratory infections. The third leading cause of death is cancer, which is followed by ischemic and hypertensive heart disease.
Spinal Injury Surgical Treatments in NYC
Surgery may be required if the spinal cord injury has resulted in the bones becoming unstable or when the injury has placed undue pressure on the spinal nerves and cord. The bones can move if the spine is not stable leading to further injury.
Follow-up after the Procedure
People with neurologically complete tetraplegia are usually at a higher risk of secondary medical complications. This includes pressure ulcers, pneumonia, and deep vein thrombosis. Generally, the most frequently observed complications are in the form of pressure ulcers. This begins at 15% in the first post-injury year and tends to increase steadily thereafter.
The severity of the initial injury determines the recovery of functioning. Generally, people with spinal cord injuries don’t regain functioning from below the injury level. However, in case there is some level of improvement, it would make itself evident in the first few days following the accident.
Rehabilitation of Spinal Cord Injuries Victims
Rehabilitation is usually done through team effort. The team will commence their work right when the victim is in the first stages of recovery. The team may include an occupational therapist, physical therapist, rehabilitation psychologist, rehabilitation nurse, dietitian, social worker, doctor, and recreation therapist.
Therapists, during the early stages of the rehabilitation, will emphasize strengthening and maintenance of existing muscle functions. They will redevelop their fine motor skills and learn adaptive techniques for accomplishing their day-to-day tasks.
You will be informed about the impact of spinal cord injury and the necessary steps to take to prevent complications. You will also be given advice on rebuilding your lifestyle and ways to increase your independence and quality of life. The patient is taught a variety of new skills. They are also taught to use technologies and equipment that can help them live on their own.
Patients are generally encouraged to participate in fitness and social activities and to resume their favorite hobbies or return to the workplace or school.
New Technologies for Supporting Patients
Inventive medical devices can help victims of spinal cord injury in New York become more mobile and independent. These are a few devices that can help restore functioning:
Consult with a New York Spinal Cord Injury Attorney Today
You need to ensure the law firm you hire is skilled at handling spinal cord injury claims. This is complex personal injury litigation and involves a complicated process. The legal team at Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff & Wolff will help you with a free, confidential, and no-obligation consultation after carefully reviewing your case. Get in touch with us by calling at 212-344-1000 or using our online contact form.
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