Types of Spinal Cord Injuries

Posted On January 24, 2023 / By Manning Law / Spinal Cord Injury

One of the most catastrophic types of injuries a victim can suffer in a traumatic accident in Colorado is a spinal cord injury. Our team of Aurora personal injury attorneys have handled claims for spinal injury victims and understand the life-changing effects of these serious injuries. The spine is responsible for communicating messages from the brain to the body. If the spinal cord is injured, this communication system can be permanently disrupted. Different types of spinal cord injuries, however, have different effects.

Complete vs. Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury 

When an accident victim is diagnosed with a spinal cord injury, the doctor will determine if it is complete or incomplete. A complete spinal cord injury is the most serious. It means the spine has been completely severed, or the messaging system between the body and brain has been interrupted – eliminating the brain’s ability to send signals below the point of injury. In other words, the victim is paralyzed from the injury site down. 

An incomplete spinal cord injury means that while the spine has suffered damage, the brain still has some ability to send signals below the injury site. The degree of disability the victim suffers can vary drastically depending on the severity and location of the spine injury. Examples of incomplete spine injuries include anterior cord syndrome, central cord syndrome and Brown-Sequard syndrome. With these injuries, a victim may retain some sensation and/or movement in parts of the body.

What Are The Types of Paralysis Caused By Spinal Cord Injury?

Paralysis is the most severe type of spinal cord injury. It refers to the loss of feeling or the ability to experience sensation and motor function below the point of injury. The higher up on the spine the injury occurs, the more severe a victim’s paralysis will be. Sadly, there is no known way to cure paralysis, although some victims can improve their conditions with rehabilitation and physical therapy.  

There are three main types of paralysis:

  • Tetraplegia (also known as quadriplegia): paralysis of all four limbs.
  • Paraplegia: paralysis in the lower half of the body.
  • Triplegia: paralysis in one arm and both legs.

If a victim suffers an injury to the upper portion of the spine (the cervical spine) he or she could suffer paralysis from the neck down. An injury to the thoracic or lumbar spine, on the other hand, may paralyze the body from the middle or lower back down. In addition to compromising feeling and function below the point of injury, paralysis can also impact a victim’s sexual function, bowel and bladder control, and respiration.

Bone Fracture or Severed Spine

The spinal cord consists of a column of 33 vertebrae, or spinal bones. If a sudden, traumatic blow to the spine fractures any of these bones, it can cause damage to the spinal cord and surrounding nerves. In the most severe cases, an accident can lead to a completely severed or split spinal cord. While a fracture may heal, a severed spine typically causes irreversible paralysis. 

Spinal Cord Compression or Crushed Spine 

Some accidents, such as catastrophic car accidents, can exert so much pressure on the spinal cord that the vertebrae and disks get crushed. This is also known as traumatic spinal cord compression. A crushed spine could fracture once or cause many compression fractures. The spine may also collapse, causing severe pain and disability.

Spinal Disk Injuries

Finally, the disks that separate each vertebra could sustain injury. Disk injuries include a slipped or herniated disk, where the disk slips out of place or bulges, often placing pressure on nearby nerves and causing chronic pain. A spinal disk may also rupture in a traumatic accident, meaning the rubbery cushion splits and leaks out its jelly-like center.

Seek Legal Compensation After a Spinal Cord Injury in Colorado

If you or a loved one was diagnosed with any type of spinal cord injury after a preventable accident in Colorado, such as a car crash or slip and fall accident, you may be eligible for financial compensation. Consult with a spinal cord injury lawyer in Aurora, CO to discuss your legal options.