Spinal cord injuries can vary widely in terms of severity. While some individuals who are diagnosed with spinal cord injuries will be able to fully recover, others will face lifelong challenges.
Understanding the severity of a spinal cord injury is a key early step in the recovery process, and an accurate diagnosis is critical for assessing a patient’s treatment needs and long-term financial and non-financial costs.
Bakersfield spinal cord injury lawyer Mickey Fine has seen the devastation of these injuries firsthand. He knows the impact a spine injury can have on a person’s life, family, and future. He has a reputation for success in a range of personal injury cases and is committed to pursuing the maximum compensation his clients need to move forward.
So, when is a spinal cord injury considered “serious,” and what is the most serious type of spinal cord injury?
2 Ways to Classify the Seriousness of a Spinal Cord Injury
Doctors assess the seriousness of spinal cord injuries in two primary ways. The first is based on the location of the injury. The second is based on whether the injury is “complete” or “incomplete.”
1. Classification Based on Location of Injury
The spine has four regions. The cervical region is the uppermost portion of the spine. It is comprised of seven vertebrae in the neck and sits above the thoracic region, which is comprised of 12 vertebrae and makes up the majority of the upper and middle back. Below the thoracic region is the lumbar region, consisting of five vertebrae in the lower back, and then the sacral region sits at the base of the spine.
In general, the higher in the back a spinal cord injury occurs, the more serious the injury will be. So, all else being equal, an injury in the cervical region is generally more serious than an injury to the thoracic, lumbar, or sacral spine.
As the Shepherd Center explains: “Being closer to the brain and affecting a larger portion of the body, cervical spinal cord injuries are typically the most severe variety of spinal cord injury. . . . Cervical spinal cord injuries often involve permanent complete or partial loss of sensory function . . . with high cervical spinal cord injury often being fatal.”
2. Classification as Complete or Incomplete
Injuries in all regions of the spinal cord can be classified as complete or incomplete. A spinal cord injury is considered complete if it results in permanent and total loss of function below the location of the injury. A spinal cord injury is considered incomplete if it results in partial loss of function below the location of the injury.
Understanding Paralysis: The Most Serious Type of Spinal Cord Injury
Based on these classifications, the most serious type of spinal cord injury is a complete injury to the uppermost vertebrae in the cervical region of the spine. This type of injury results in total paralysis (referred to as quadriplegia or tetraplegia), which involves complete loss of motor and sensory function in the limbs and torso.
Spinal cord injuries can also result in lesser forms of paralysis. While there are degrees of paralysis, all forms of paralysis are serious and life-altering medical conditions. As a result, paralysis, in general, is often referred to as the most serious type of spinal cord injury. This includes:
- Monoplegia – Paralysis affecting one arm or leg
- Hemiplegia – Paralysis affecting one side of the body
- Diplegia – Paralysis affecting the body symmetrically (i.e. paralysis in both arms or legs)
- Paraplegia – Paralysis affecting both legs (and often affecting the torso as well)
- Quadriplegia or Tetraplegia – Paralysis affecting all four limbs and the torso
All forms of paralysis can result in significant financial and non-financial costs. Lifetime care for paralysis can be extraordinarily expensive, and many individuals diagnosed with paralysis will experience pain and suffering, anxiety, depression, and other forms of emotional distress for the rest of their lives. For those who are unable to work – or who can only work in a limited capacity – paralysis can lead to substantial loss of income and benefits as well. A spinal cord injury lawyer can help you pursue the justice and compensation you deserve in these difficult situations.
Seeking Financial Compensation for Paralysis (and Other Spinal Cord Injuries)
Individuals who have been diagnosed with paralysis (and other spinal cord injuries) will be able to recover financial compensation for their losses in many cases. Car accidents, slip-and-fall accidents, and workplace accidents are all common causes of serious spinal cord injuries—and they are all causes for which financial compensation may be available. If you or a loved one has suffered a spinal cord injury under any circumstances in which someone else may have been to blame, you should speak with a Bakersfield spinal cord injury lawyer, and we encourage you to contact us for a free consultation.