Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries arise when the spinal cord is severed or damaged due to trauma. This may happen in a motor vehicle accident in many different ways. For instance, a high-speed impact in a front-end or rear end collision can cause whiplash, pinched nerves, or a broken neck. A defective seat or seat back failure can cause a back injury, and a rollover and roof crush can cause a serious neck injury. A slip and fall on a dangerous sidewalk or unsafe premises, an elevator accident, or a ladder fall or other construction site accident, can cause a spinal cord injury as well. A spinal cord injury can even be the result of medical malpractice, when a back surgery is performed incompetently or negligently.
The Spinal Cord
The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves running along the spine from the brain to the base of the back. Along with the brain, these nerves make up the central nervous system and are the main conduit of signals between the brain and all the nerves throughout the body, which are known as the peripheral nervous system. Communication between the brain and the peripheral nerves is essential for all feeling and sensation as well as movement and all muscular control, including involuntary muscles necessary for breathing, heartbeat, and the function of all internal organs.
The Spinal Column
The spinal column consists of 22 bones, known as vertebrae, which house and protect the spinal cord from injury. The spinal column is broken down into three regions – the cervical, or neck, with 7 vertebrae; the thoracic, or chest area, with 12 vertebrae; and the lumbar, or lower back, with 5 vertebrae. Each vertebra is identified by its position in its region, such as C4 or T1.
Paraplegia and Quadriplegia
If the spinal cord is severed, there is no longer any way for the brain to communicate to the body below the point of injury. This means that all feeling and function below that point is lost. Since nerve cells cannot regrow, this injury typically results in permanent paralysis. An injury to the spinal cord in the thoracic or lumbar region causes paraplegia, which is paralysis of the legs. Bowel and bladder control and sexual function are typically lost as well. An injury in the cervical region causes quadriplegia, which involves paralysis of the arms and the legs. Depending upon how high the injury is, certain vital functions may be affected as well, including the ability to breathe or swallow on one’s own. Assistive technology such as ventilators, respirators, and feeding and hydration tubes may be necessary in the most severe cases.
Spinal cord injuries are initially very expensive to treat, with emergency measures often necessary to save the victim’s life. Spinal injuries also involve a lengthy period of rehabilitation and require a lifetime of additional expenses to address medical complications, employability, daily living, and self-care. It is imperative to retain an attorney who understands the costs associated with a spinal cord injury and will work to achieve a maximum recovery that reflects the challenges and expenses of a spinal cord injury. In New York City, contact Leandros A. Vrionedes, P.C. for a free consultation.