Spinal cord injuries are some of the most serious injuries you can get. Some spinal cord injuries cause temporary symptoms, which can subside with the help of effective treatments. However, some spinal cord injuries have life-long repercussions.
Two Main Kinds of Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries (SCI) can be classified into two types: complete and incomplete.
A complete SCI results in the total loss of all sensory and motor functions below the location of the injury. This type of spinal cord injury may lead to a severe loss of motor function caused by either a bruise to the spinal cord or by lack of blood flow to the injured area.
On the other hand, an incomplete SCI pertains to a partial loss of sensory and motor functions below the injury. It is less severe than a complete injury, and there are varying degrees of damage. For instance, a person with an incomplete SCI may be able to move one leg or arm or retain one functioning side of the body. Incomplete injuries account for 67.5% of recorded SCIs in the United States, with almost 50% of all patients having incomplete tetraplegia.
The following are common types of incomplete SCIs:
- Anterior cord syndrome. The front of the spinal cord sustains damage with this injury. It may affect your ability to move more than your sensations.
- Brown-Sequard syndrome. This injury damages one side of the spinal cord. The degree of damage varies for each patient.
- Central cord syndrome. This injury damages the center of the spinal cord, which carries signals from the brain. It can cause arm paralysis, loss of fine motor skills, and partial impairment.
You can narrow down types of spinal cord injuries even further. The spinal cord has four sections, namely the cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and sacral regions. The type and severity of a spinal cord injury depend on the part of the spine affected.
Cervical Spinal Cord Injury (C1-C8)
The cervical section of the spinal cord is responsible for sending signals to the back of the head, shoulders, neck, hands, arms, and down to the diaphragm. Quadriplegia is the main effect of having a cervical SCI. Cervical SCI causes paralysis in the arms, legs, and torso, which can gravely affect a person’s day to day activities.
Thoracic Spinal Cord Injury (T1-T12)
The thoracic section of the spinal cord is responsible for transmitting signals to the back muscles and some parts of the abdomen. Compared to other types of spinal cord injuries, thoracic SCIs rarely occur because of the rib cage, which protects the area controlled by the thoracic section. However, if this injury occurs, the majority of patients use a brace on their trunks to give more stability and help the core muscles recover. Arms and hands are not compromised in the majority of cases.
Lumbar Spinal Cord Injury (L1-L5)
This specific type of injury leads to paraplegia, the paralysis of the legs. The lumbar portion of the spinal cord carries signals to the abdomen, lower back, external genital organs, and buttocks. As a result, it may disrupt bowel and bladder functions and could even lead to loss of sensation. Because it affects a variety of the lower body’s functions, a lumbar SCI may require surgery and external fixation for treatment.
Sacral Spinal Cord Injury (S1-S5)
Sacral SCI paralyzes the lower extremities: the hips, genital organs, thighs, and legs. The sacral section of the spinal cord is responsible for sending signals to the body’s lower extremities. Similar to the lumbar SCI, it leads to the loss of bladder and bowel movements and may cause sexual dysfunction.
Front Range Spine and Neurosurgery in Lone Tree, Colorado Springs, and Aurora, CO
At Front Range Spine and Neurosurgery, we deliver patient-centered care that ensures all treatments are tailor-fit for each patient. Our surgeons see to it that all nonsurgical treatment options are exhausted before we recommend surgery for your spinal injury.
To book an appointment, you may call us at (303) 790-1800 or fill out this online form.