Paraplegia and quadriplegia are caused by spinal cord injuries, and both can significantly impact an accident survivor’s health, quality of life, and earning capacity. It’s estimated that one in every fifty Americans is living with some form of paralysis. Globally, 250,000 to 500,000 people per year suffer a spinal cord injury that results in paralysis. A considerable percentage are the results of accidents caused by slips and falls, motor vehicle accidents, work-related accidents, and medical malpractice.
A little more than 40% of paralysis cases involve paraplegia which causes loss of function below the waist. Individuals can suffer either partial or complete loss of function. It may affect one leg or both legs. When an individual suffers complete paraplegia, this involves the total loss of function in both legs.
In fact, all forms of paralysis can be broken down into one of six sub-classifications. These are partial, complete, permanent, generalized, localized, and temporary. In some cases, it may be possible to restore total or partial function depending on the severity of the initial injury and the individual’s response to surgical procedures and physical therapy.
Quadriplegia affects approximately 56% of individuals who suffer a paralyzing injury. This type of injury can cause the individual to suffer loss of function in both legs and arms. It occurs following damage to the upper portion of the spinal cord. As with other forms of paralysis, it can be classified as partial, permanent, or temporary. In some instances, it may affect one side of the body, with the other side unaffected.
Cause and Additional Consequences of Spinal Cord Injuries
The spinal column is strong and durable, but it is not immune to damage. Slips, trips, and falls can cause damage to spinal nerves. Motor vehicle accidents can cause catastrophic disc fractures. Illnesses and infections can damage the myelin sheaths that help facilitate the flow of electrical signals to the arms, legs, and organs. While treatments and adaptive living aids may help restore function and mobility, current medical technology does not have the ability to reverse paralysis.
When an individual suffers a spinal cord injury, it can affect more than just limb function. There are many secondary impacts that can diminish an individual’s overall health. These can diminish respiratory function, restrict circulation, and result in the development of arthritis, cancer, increase risk of stroke, and a myriad of other health conditions that can limit the individual’s quality of life and in many cases, significantly shorten expected lifespan.