What’s the difference between paraplegic and quadriplegic injuries?



4 Minute Read from Hamilton’s Spinal Cord Injury Trial Lawyers

Spinal cord injuries may be classified as quadriplegic or paraplegic, depending on the level of injury or lesion on the spinal cord, and depending on the functioning of the torso, bowel, bladder, legs, arms, pelvic organs and sexual function. Quadriplegic and paraplegic injuries often times are life-changing and make work, social life, recreational activities, mobility and sexual activities difficult or impossible. Although some accident victims do recover partial capacity to perform some activities of daily living, many do not, and unfortunately live their lives with their activities o fdaily living (ADL’s) permanently altered.

Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury – A quick review of terms

Your spinal cord is part of your central nervous system which transmits signals and messages from your brain to various parts of your body. Your spinal cord has two main neurological pathways which helps your brain move and control your body.

Motor nerve pathway – otherwise known as the descending pathway that carries messages from your brain to your body to initiate overall body movement and regulate bodily functions. If you suffer a spinal cord injury, you interrupt the neural pathway which results in your brain being unable to send messages to initiate movement and control your body below the site of spinal cord injury.

Sensory nerve pathway  – otherwise known as the ascending pathway that carries sensory information from your body up to your brain.  Examples of sensory information are pain, temperature and touch. If your sensory nerve pathway is damaged then the brain cannot feel or process the body below the area of injury or lesion.  Even a small disturbance in the sensory nerve pathway can result in major bodily dysfunction.

Your spinal cord is a very delicate cable like structure that is about the thickness of an average baby finger. The “average” spinal cord is approximately 50 cm long, and it begins at the base of your skull and runs down the length of your back, ending behind the first lumbar vertebrae. Twenty-one (21) pairs of nerves are given off from the spinal cord that supplies the upper and lower limbs, chest and abdomen The spinal cord, although protected by the spinal column, can be easily damaged by trauma.

Your spinal column, in turn, is made up of thirty-three (33) individual bones and thirty-one (31) pairs of nerves.  Your spinal column is subdivided into four (4) different sections, with each vertebrae separated by discs that are often referred to as “shock absorbers” which prevent your vertebral bones from rubbing together. These disk and become herniated, torn or bulged.:

Cervical vertebrae – which are made up of seven vertebral bones and eight pairs of cervical nerves. The cervical nerves are subdivided into high cervical nerves (C1 to C4 ) and low cervical nerves (C5 to C8).

Thoracic vertebrae – which are made up of 12 vertebral bones and 12 pairs of nerves. The thoracic nerves are subdivided from T1 to T5, and T6 to T12.

Lumbar vertebrae – which are made up of five vertebral bones and five pairs of nerves (L1 to L5).

Sacral vertebrae – which are made up of five vertebral bones and five pairs of nerves (S1 to S5).

The difference between paraplegic and quadriplegic injuries

Quadriplegia – typically the higher the spinal cord injury, the more paralysis will occur. Quadriplegia is typically caused by injury (otherwise known as lesion ) to the spinal cord in the C1 to C7 levels (or injury above the first thoracic vertebrae) which causes complete or partial impairment of the limbs and torso which causes paralysis or weakness in both arms and legs.  Quadriplegia is usually the loss of sensory and motor – meaning that sensation, feeling and control are lost. Quadriplegic injuries can be complicated. For example, injuries at the C1 to C4 level usually affects our movement more so than lower cervical injuries. For example it is not uncommon to have arms that are fully functional, but fingers that are not.

Paraplegia –  on the other hand, is injury and impairment to motor and sensory function below the cervical vertebrae. The area of injury or lesion affected in paraplegia is either in the thoracic, lumbar, or sacral regions. Typically with an L2 to S5 paraplegia, a victim retains fully intact arm abdominal and trunk muscle movement. Depending on the classification of the paraplegic injury, a victim could have partial to full control of the lower extremities. Many paraplegic accident victims go on to be quite independent with feeding, dressing, bathing, grooming and brushing teeth. Assistance is often always needed for housekeeping and home maintenance requirements. Many paraplegics are able to drive independently but may need hand controls depending on the level of their injury. Many put paraplegic victims are often independent with bed mobility and for all transfers.

Complete and incomplete spinal cord injuries

The extent and severity of sensory, motor and autonomic loss from SCI depends not only on the level of injury to the spinal cord, but also on whether the lesion is “complete” or “incomplete.” Spinal cord injuries are classified as incomplete or complete by the American spinal injury Association (Asia).

A complete spinal cord injury typically means that there is complete sensory and motor loss below the lesion, or level of injury. In other words, there are no messages getting down the neural pathways past the area of spinal cord that is damages. Complete spinal cord injuries typically occur with crush injuries or three vertebral column fractures that cause the spinal canal to be compromised.

With an incomplete spinal cord injury the spinal cord is partially damaged and some signals from the brain can cross the injured area to reach muscles and skin. Further recovery could be expected with time. An incomplete spinal cord injury means the there is some type of function or voluntary movement and sensation below the level of injury, either on one side or his/her body or both.  The Asia Impairment Scale indicates that with incomplete spinal cord injuries, sensory or motor function is preserved below the neurological level.

Has your loved one suffered spinal cord injury? Contact our Hamilton Spinal Cord Experts Today.

Paraplegic and Quadriplegic Spinal Cord Injury can no doubt causes permanent physical disability and complex complications which disrupt quality of life, causes major limitations in mobility, problems in occupational and social functioning, psychological difficulty and medical complications (such as recurrent urinary tract infections, bacterial infections and pressure ulcers ect.) If your loved one has suffered a spinal cord injury due to the wrongdoing of another person or company then please do not hesitate to speak to our Hamilton spinal cord injury lawyers today.

Traumatic spinal cord injuries pose a very heavy expensive burden on not only the injured individual, but also their family, care-givers and society as a whole.  It’s important that proper experts help valuate the economic impact of your loved one’s spinal cord injury. An experienced Hamilton spinal cord injury lawyer can assist in retaining the appropriate experts to help establish your loved one’s condition, provide a comprehensive future analysis and enumerate future needs, and provide both item-specific and overall costs of the recommendations in order to support an acceptable settlement. Call us today at 905-333-8888 to speak to our Hamilton Spinal Cord Injury Lawyers at no cost and without obligation.  Let our family help your.