Spinal Cord

About Spinal injuries

Most injuries to the spinal cord don't completely sever it. An injury is more likely to cause fractures and compression of the vertebrae, which then crush and destroy the spinal nerve tracts. The prognosis is variable between almost complete recovery and complete paralysis.

Depending on the level of the injury, various paralysis patterns occur: injuries in the neck area lead to paralysis of the hands, arms, torso and legs (known as tetraplegia). Injuries in the thoracic, lumbar or sacral area in turn cause paralysis of the legs, but sometimes also the torso and pelvic region (internal organs). This form is called paraplegia.

While sensations can often still be felt with incomplete spinal cord injury, movements are no longer possible. Medical devices such as orthoses support the body in such cases, and muscles can be activated to a certain extent with functional electrical stimulation (FES). Sometimes the exact opposite applies: movements are possible, but the patient no longer feels anything in the affected region.


Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury

In contrast to complete paraplegia, only part of the spinal cord is damaged with incomplete spinal cord injury. The injury to the neural structures within the vertebral canal leads to paralysis with a partial or complete loss of body functions – such as motor skills and sensations.

Spinal cord injuries are usually due to trauma such as a traffic accident, fall or sports injury. Reliable statements regarding the number of people sustaining an incomplete spinal cord injury each year cannot really be made due to different data collection standards. Men are over three times more frequently affected than women.

Acute Spinal Cord Compression

Acute spinal cord compression is a neurosurgical emergency. Rapid diagnosis and management are essential to have the highest chances of preventing permanent loss of function.

Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury

A traumatic spinal cord injury is a lesion of neural elements of the spinal cord that can result in any degree of sensory and motor deficit, and autonomic or bowel dysfunction.


Related Systems

Helpful Information

Spinal Injuries Association

For more information about spinal injuries, visit the Spinal Injuries Association website.