If you were in an accident that involved your spinal cord, you might have heard your doctor refer to it as an "incomplete" injury. But what does that really mean?
It depends a great deal on the specifics of your injury, but at its most basic, it means that your spinal cord was not completely severed or damaged. You are not completely paralyzed with a total loss of sensation.
While that is encouraging news, some incomplete injuries are still very serious. Even at their most serious, however, incomplete spinal cord injuries allow for the best chance of recovery.
In one out-of-state study, researchers discovered that one out of seven spinal cord injury patients with complete paralysis after their accidents were able to experience significant recovery.
Conversely, three out of four who were still able to move their legs after their injuries had significant improvement over time.
Roughly two-thirds who had cervical injuries that caused paralysis but who could still feel pinpricks to the legs were able to regain sufficient muscle strength to again walk. One out of eight with cervical injuries that allowed them to only sense a light touch still had the potential to relearn how to walk.
The most common question these patients ask is "Will I ever be able to walk again?"
Doctors cannot always definitively answer their patients, but use the following criteria to determine the likelihood:
-- While improvement continues and muscles recover functioning, the odds are better.
-- The more time that has elapsed with no recovery of function or improvement, the less chance of a patient ever regaining the ability to walk.
Of course, the treatment that one receives after a spinal cord injury has much to do with the eventual recovery. Aggressive treatment and early physical therapies contributed to higher rates of significant recovery.
But the cost of such treatment is high, and a spinal cord injury can quickly bankrupt the average patient. One way to cover treatments, medical bills and costs associated with handicap-accessible renovations is to file a civil suit against the person who caused your accident and spinal cord injury.
Source: CraigHospital.org, "Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries: The Early Days," accessed Feb. 17, 2017