Pediatric and Infant Spinal Cord Injury
Spinal cord injuries (SCI) in kids before the age of 15 years is a relatively rare occurrence in Canada (the exact frequency is unknown, but the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center indicated less than 5%b annually in the US – Canada unknown) but when it happens, it can have terrible lifelong consequences for both the child that is hurt and his or her parents an loved ones.
What is an infant spinal cord injury?
Think of your spinal cord as a cable-like bundle of neural fibers which is located within your vertebral bones. Your spinal cord is a part of your body’s central nervous system which contains motor nerves and sensory nerves that lead to and from your brain through the spinal cord to the skin, muscles, and organs of your body. Your spinal cord can be compared to a roadway which carries signals and messages from your brain (i.e. communication central) throughout your body and into your extremities. Your motor nerves send messages from your brain to muscles throughout your body, allowing them to contract voluntarily or reflexively. Your sensory nervous system involves “collecting” information from your body’s internal and external conditions – such as pain or touch, or temperature. The difference between the two, mainly, is that your motor neurons carry signals away from your brain and spinal cord to help you move, while your sensory nerves carries information towards your central nervous system to help you feel.
When a spinal cord is injured, the communication between the brain and the rest of your body is interrupted. A traumatic injury spinal cord injury (SCI) can either results in a bruise (contusion), a stretch, a partial or incomplete tear, or a complete tear (transection) in the spinal cord. SCI is a common cause of permanent disability and death with infants. If there is no feeling or movement below the area of injury then the injury is considered a complete injury. A complete injury causes impairment or absence of voluntary motor activity below the level of injury (i.e. paralysis). With an incomplete injury some of the spinal cord signals can get through your various muscles.
How do pediatric spinal cord injuries happen?
When pediatric spinal cord injuries do in fact happen, they mostly happen with damage to the child’s neck area, although SCI’s under the age of ten are relatively uncommon. Anatomically, the relatively large size of a child’s head compared to their smaller torso increases the likelihood of cervical spine injuries, especially between the skull and cervical vertebrae.
After the age of 10 kids undergo maturing changes in the spinal column. The head of a child becomes in better proportion to his or her body, and the shift in chance of injury occurrence begins to move downwards to the torso. Ligaments and muscles start to strengthen, bones start reaching a more mature size and the areas of cartilage and soft bone start to become replaced with normal calcified bone.
There are many causes of acute spinal cord injuries in infants – however the most common reason is because the area of the spine or neck is compressed or bent. Most spinal cord injury to infants is due to blunt trauma. Car vehicle accidents are surely a leading cause of spinal cord injury, followed by falls down stairs. Additionally, newborns can certainly additionally sustain birth injuries. As kids get older, sports-related spinal cord injury becomes more common. Some common type of infant spinal cord injuries include:
- Lap belt injuries – i.e. young kids in adult seatbelts
- Trampoline injuries
- Improperly installed car seats
- Incorrectly used booters seats
- Diving in shallow water
- Child abuse – aggressive shaking leading to c2-c3 subluxation
- Birth injuries which typically affect the spinal cord in the neck area
- Sports related injuries
Pediatric spinal cord injuries are certainly less frequently encountered than spinal cord trauma in other age groups, mostly because parents, for the more part, keep their infants safe – i.e. children are often very closely supervised by loved ones and properly restrained when in a motor vehicle.
Also, the anatomical differences between adults and children vary significantly which contribute to frequently less injuries. A child under 10 normally has a spine that is quite mobile and elastic. A child also has underdeveloped neck muscles. The spinal cord is not completely calcified and the facet joints are not yet fully developed. Whereas spinal cord trauma and fracture might occur in adults due to trauma, the elasticity of the infant spinal cord allows for better protection in kids.
The cost of care for an infant or child with a spinal cord injury
Depending on the age of the child and the severity of the injury, medical and costs of care not covered by OHIP of an infant spinal cord injury could easily be in the range of seven to nine million dollars ($7,000,000.00 – $9,000.000.00). Recurring annual costs of caring for patients with chronic spinal cord injury (SCI) beyond the acute phase could include items such as:
- 24 hour long term attendant care
- Medication/prescription drugs
- Assistive and mobility devices
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Psychological counselling as the child ages
- Home modifications
- Vehicle purchase
- Vehicle modifications
- Home devices/adaptive equipment
- Vocational rehabilitation
- Recurring non-prescription medical items such as pain medication, cathaters, laxatives, bandages, bed, hygienic aids, bed lifts, bath lifts, exercise items ect)
Lawyers for injured kids in the Hamilton area
If your child or infant has suffered a pediatric spinal cord injury due to someone else’s negligence or due to a birth injury, contact our Hamilton Lawyers for a free no-obligation consultation. We have been helping injury victims and their families in the Hamilton area for over 15 years. We understand that spinal cord injuries are life changing injuries. We understand that for child or parent, there will be emotional negative reactions that will more likely than not require attention to the long term psychological adjustment.
It is essential that proper care and treatment of the individual is funded for families to help rebuild their lives after a serious infant injury. Rehabilitation will be life long, both psychologically and physically. Lalande & Company Lawyers understand how spinal cord injuries can have serious repercussions for the victim and the victim’s family. We can help you fight for every penny that you deserve and make sure that your child is taken care of. Call us at 905-333-8888 or contact us online to discuss your case.