Paralysis & Quadriplegia FAQ
Q. What is the primary cause of paralysis and quadriplegia?
A. Most paralysis not caused by a stoke is caused by a spinal cord injury. Almost all quadriplegic cases are the result of a spinal cord injury. Some are caused by strokes, bleeds in the brain or other catastrophic spinal cord and brain injury. Brain injuries may be caused by oxygen deprivation, which can lead to paralysis or quadriplegia.
Q. What is a spinal cord injury (SCI)?
A. The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves that conduct information from the brain to the rest of the body, and from the body back to the brain. Some nerves are related to sensation and/or motor function, maintaining involuntary bodily functions such as breathing. This bundle of nerves is encased in the bony spinal column. If the spine is broken, the spinal cord suffers a traumatic injury which can result in loss of function and feeling.
Q. What are the most common causes of spinal cord injuries?
A. Most of the spinal cord injuries that cause paralysis and quadriplegia are caused by accidents—automobile accidents top the list- but sporting injuries also rank high on the list. Some spinal injuries are caused by violence, such as stabbing or shooting, and others are the result of falls. Construction site injuries are often a common cause for spinal cord injuries.
Q. Is there any group that is at higher risk for a spinal injury?
A. Yes. Men between the ages of 16 and 30 are far more likely to end up with a spinal injury. 80% of the 10,000 – 12,000 spinal cord injuries that happen every year involve men in this age range.
Q. What are the chances of recovering from a spinal cord injury?
A. While treatments have become more effective at minimizing the effects of spinal cord injuries, many people do not recover fully from this type of injury. When paralysis involves all four limbs, as in quadriplegia, the long term costs are considerable. Even in cases of paraplegia, where the use of the upper body is retained, assistance may still be needed. Assessment of future medical costs is an important part of any injury and damage analysis.
Q. Are there different degrees of paralysis after a spinal cord injury?
A. Yes, there are. If the injury is complete, the victim will have no ability to move or feel anything below the damaged area in the spinal column. Both sides of the body will be effected equally. If the injury is incomplete, limited movement and feeling may be experienced. One side of the body may function more effectively than the other side.
Q. Can surgery help?
A. No surgical technique is available to restore the spinal cord. Surgery can help relieve pressure or stabilize the spine so that no further injury occurs, but only time will tell if the surgery has helped to restore partial function or not.
Q. What are some of the symptoms that quadriplegics and paraplegics experience?
A. There are many medical complications that follow a spinal cord injury.
- Spastic muscles, where the muscles tighten up in abnormal positions, are quite common. Especially where the injury is incomplete, considerable pain can be associated with this condition. Massage and anti-spastic medications are used to relieve the symptoms.
- The other opposite symptom involves muscles that are completely limp. Physical therapy can help to maintain muscle tone, and special equipment may be worn to support the joints.
- Chronic pain is common.
- Bladder and bowel dysfunction is a constant concern, especially for complete spinal injuries, but can also be an issue for those with partial spinal injuries.
- Heart irregularities, low blood pressure, and other heart problems, including blood clots, are a serious concern in many cases.
- Respiratory problems are especially common with quadriplegia.
Q. What are some of the long-term care issues for a quadriplegic or paraplegia?
A. Treatment of the symptoms of quadriplegia and paraplegia are permanent issues.
- Physical and occupational therapy can help with gaining the best quality of life possible with the limitations the paralysis presents. Many daily activities must be relearned and adapted to these limitations.
- Bowel and bladder programs often need to be developed to minimize the risk of bladder infections and to establish healthy bowel function.
- Drug therapy may be necessary to manage pain, control blood pressure, and keep circulation healthy.
- Mental health care may be vital to developing coping mechanisms and dealing with the trauma of losing one’s way of life.
- Families may need mental health care as well.
- Care providers may be needed for personal maintenance, such as bathing, hair care, etc.
Q. What kinds of damages can I seek as a paralysis and/or quadriplegic victim?
A. If your injury was caused in a motor vehicle accident, as the result of an assault, through medical malpractice, because a product was defective, or due to the negligence of another, it is common to seek compensation fro both current medical expenses and potential future damages (lost income, cost of long-term care, home modifications, transportation, life care plan, loss of opportunity to enjoy life, loss of consortium by a loved one, etc.).
Q. Are there any other accidents claims that can result in legal settlements?
A. If a school district fails to exercise due oversight of school sponsored activities, an accident occurring on the campus or in connection with the school activity may be grounds for a case. If a school sponsors an activity, adult supervision should be expected.
Q. Does this mean that if an accident happens at school, that I can always sue?
A. Some activities are inherently more risky than others. For example, a gymnastics program has a higher risk level than volleyball program. The issue involved has to do with appropriate supervision. While you can expect any medical expenses related to an accident to be covered by school insurance policies, long-term compensation isn’t always the norm.
Author: Rob Kornfeld