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What are the different types of spinal cord injuries?

The spinal column's bundled collection of nerves, surrounded by a column of arching protective bones, are order takers tasked with carrying out the brain's commands.

When a Chicago doctor examines a patient with a spinal cord injury, the type of injury must be identified. A complete injury involves the loss of movement and sensation below an injury point. Patients with some bodily responses below the injury are diagnosed with incomplete injuries.

The extent of injury depends upon the damage site within a spinal column divided into vertebrae zones. From the neck down: eight bones within the cervical area, 12 thoracic bones and five bones each in the lumbar and sacral areas. Damage falls below the injury point.

An injury to the sacral bones diminishes or paralyzes leg and hip movement. The bladder, bowel and sexual organs may be affected.

The same symptoms occur during a lumbar injury, with harm to points downward from the lower back and abdomen. Surgical procedures can help correct lumbar injuries.

The trunk of the body becomes involved, when an injury occurs at the thoracic level. These are the least likely spinal cord injuries to occur, since the rib cage acts as an additional shield. An injury in the thoracic region often does not include partial or full hand or arm paralysis.

A cervical spinal cord injury can result in quadriplegia, the loss of sensation or paralysis of all four limbs. Nerve messages may fail to reach the diaphragm, shoulders, neck and the back of a victim's head. Stabilizing devices are used to provide bodily support for the victims of thoracic and cervical injuries.

These types of central nervous system injuries can temporarily or permanently interrupt or curtail movement and responses in certain parts of the body. Costly, long-term medical care may be required. Compensation for victims may be available through liability claims against parties responsible for spinal cord injuries.

Source: Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, "What is my injury all about, and what is meant by complete vs. incomplete?" Dec. 28, 2014

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