A spinal cord injury can have life-changing consequences for a patient. The spinal cord serves as the bridge between the brain and the body. Together, the brain and spine make up the body’s central nervous system. When any type of accident (e.g. a motor vehicle accident, diving accident, or fall) causes a spinal cord injury, the effects can be devastating on the victim. Some spinal cord injuries have consequences that last a lifetime.
The most severe outcome of a spinal cord injury is paralysis: the loss of strength, control and feeling in a single muscle or muscle group. Paralysis is often permanent and irreversible, although some patients may regain some strength or function with treatments such as surgeries and years of rehabilitation. Paralysis related to spine injuries comes in four main forms.
- Loss of function and sensation in both legs but not the upper body.
- Paralysis and loss of sensation in all four limbs and the trunk.
- An injury that only affects one arm or one leg.
- An injury that only affects an arm and leg on one side of the body.
There are other variations of spinal cord injuries as well, such as Brown-Sequard Syndrome and Anterior Cord Syndrome. Doctors describe spinal cord injuries as either complete or incomplete. Complete injuries are severe and generally permanent. Incomplete injuries are less severe and may be treatable.
Weakness or Lack of Coordination
Some injuries to the spinal cord do not take away a victim’s ability to move or feel below the point of injury, but rather inflict symptoms such as general muscle weakness, tingling or lack of coordination. A more minor spinal cord injury could cause pain, numbness, tingling, weakness, some loss of feeling, changes in hot and cold sensations, muscle spasms, incoordination, or trouble maintaining balance. These symptoms may be temporary or permanent depending on the person and the type of injury.
Injuries that impact the upper part of the spine, the cervical spine, can have a negative effect on the patient’s ability to breathe. Respiratory impairment from high cervical injuries could describe low lung capacity or a persistent cough due to the respiratory muscles losing strength. Trouble breathing could also stem from dysfunction of autonomic bodily functions from a compromised spinal cord.
Loss of Bladder and/or Bowel Control
Injuries to the lower part of the spine, the sacral spine, could interrupt communication between the brain and body that controls bowel and bladder functions. This could lead to long-term issues such as incontinence and lack of bowel control. A spinal cord injury could also affect the digestive system by impeding the movement of waste through the colon, making it difficult to control the functions of the bowels.
The Average Lifetime Costs of a Spinal Cord Injury
The physical and emotional consequences of a spinal cord injury are enormous and not to be underestimated. Life-changing disabilities are what make spinal cord injuries so catastrophic for victims. Another issue a patient with a severe spinal cord injury will have to contend with, however, is the average lifetime costs of this type of injury.
According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, the average cost of a spinal cord injury ranges from $1,153,420 for a victim who was 50 at the age of injury and suffered motor dysfunction at any level to $4,891,398 for someone who was 25 at the age of injury and suffered high tetraplegia. These estimates only calculate health care costs and living expenses for someone with a spinal cord injury. They do not include indirect costs such as special education, lost wages and benefits, and lost productivity.
Spinal Cord Injury Claim
A legal consequence of a spinal cord injury could be the victim filing a lawsuit against the party responsible for causing the injury. If a drunk driver crashed into you and gave you a spinal cord injury, for example, that driver may owe you compensation. Work with a personal injury lawyer in San Antonio for assistance bringing a spinal cord injury claim in your county.