Spinal Cord Injuries Cause Lifelong Disability
About 450,000 people in the United States live with spinal cord injuries (SCI) and about 10,000 new SCIs occur every year. Men aged 16 to 30 account for 82 percent of new cases each year, usually from motor vehicle accidents, falls or violence.
Damage to the spinal cord - the bundle of nerves that delivers impulses to and from the brain to control the body's movement - usually occurs from a blow that fractures the spine. The spinal cord is not usually severed. Instead, pieces of broken vertebrae tear the cord or pinch off the nerve, causing permanent paralysis.
The severity of the impairment depends on the location of the injury along the spinal column. Generally speaking, the higher the injury, the more severe the damage. A break in the neck usually results in quadriplegia - complete lower limb paralysis - or even loss of breathing functions. A lower spinal cord trauma may result in paraplegia - leg paralysis - with a variety of function between.
Those with SCI injuries often lose function of the bowel and bladder, have impaired sexual functioning, low blood pressure and the inability to perspire, causing body temperature problems. The most severely injured may lose involuntary functioning such as breathing, necessitating the need for mechanical ventilators.
In addition to limited mobility, people with spinal cord injuries often face a limited life span, most often from pneumonia or respiratory infections, pressure sores or non-ischemic heart disease. Suicide is also more common than it is in the general population.
While SCI cannot be cured, advances in treatment have been made in recent years, particularly for those treated at the time of injury. Steroids to reduce swelling, which inflicts secondary damage, helps some people regain some functioning. However, injuries are generally permanent.
If you or a loved one has experienced a spinal cord injury due to another's negligence, contact an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your case and determine your options.