Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) is damage to the spinal cord that results in a loss of function such as mobility or feeling as in paralysis. Frequent causes of damage are trauma from a car accident, gunshot, and falling) or diseases (polio, spina bifida, Friedreich's Ataxia, Lou Gehrig's disease) or medical malpractice.
The spinal cord is about 18 inches long and extends from the base of the brain, down the middle of the back, to about the waist. The nerves that lie within the spinal cord are upper motor neurons and their function is to carry the messages back and forth from the brain to the spinal nerves along the spinal tract.
A person can break their back yet not sustain a spinal cord injury if only the bones around the spinal cord (the vertebrae) are damaged, but the spinal cord is not affected. In these situations, the individual may not experience paralysis after the bones are stabilized. In general, the higher in the spinal column the injury occurs, the more dysfunction a person will experience.
The effects of spinal cord injury depend on the type of injury and the level of the injury. SCI can be divided into two types of injury, complete and incomplete. A complete injury means that there is no function below the level of the injury; no sensation, and no voluntary movement. Both sides of the body are equally affected. An incomplete injury means that there is some functioning below the primary level of the injury. A person with an incomplete injury may be able to move one limb more than another, may be able to feel parts of the body that cannot be moved, or may have more functioning on one side of the body than the other.
Approximately 450,000 people live with SCI in the United States. There are about 10,000 new spinal cord injuries every year; the majority of them involve males between the ages of 16-30. These injuries result from motor vehicle accidents, violence, or falling.
Currently there is no cure for SCI though there have been some laboratory advances which result in a decrease in damage at the time of the injury. Steroid drugs such reduce swelling, which is a common cause of secondary damage at the time of injury. The experimental drug, Sygen∆appears, reduces loss of function.
When a SCI occurs, there is usually swelling of the spinal cord. This may cause changes in virtually every system in the body. After days or weeks, the swelling begins to diminish and people may regain some functioning. With many injuries, especially incomplete injuries, the individual may recover some functioning as late as 18 months after the injury.
Overall, 85 percent of SCI patients who survive the first 24 hours are still alive 10 years later. The most common cause of death is due to diseases of the respiratory system, with most due to pneumonia. In fact, pneumonia is the single leading cause of death throughout the entire 15 year period immediately following SCI for all age groups, both males and females, whites and non-whites, and persons with quadriplegia. The second leading cause of death is non-ischemic heart disease. These are almost always unexplained heart attacks often occurring among young persons who have no previous history of underlying heart disease.
Suicide is the third cause of death.
If you or a beloved family member has a spinal cord injury caused by a truck or car accident, work related injury, fall, or hospital mistake - you need a lawyer by your side. Find out what your legal options are. Contact Pennsylvania Lawyers for Spinal Cord Injuries at Anapol Schwartz to find out how they can help.