Why is a Spinal Cord injury Such a Serious Medicla Issue?
Spinal cord injuries can be among the most serious sustained to the human body but not all spinal injuries are alike or equally severe.
Depending whether you are diagnosed with complete or incomplete spinal cord injury, you could be suffering from full or only partial paralysis, which will be treated in different ways.
The majority of spinal cord injuries arise out of a traumatic event such as car accidents, motorbikes, falls and in particular horse riding accidents.
Assaults with weapons such as knives and guns can also result in spinal cord injuries.
The spinal cord can also be affected by various congenital and acquired diseases, for instance polio or spina bifida.
Because the spinal cord operates vital functions delivering nerve impulses from the brain throughout your body, even a small degree of damage can have devastating consequences, and may result in the use of a wheelchair or other equipment if mobility is impaired.
The most serious type of spinal injury is complete spinal cord injury, which typically results in a lack of control or sensation for any part of the body located below the point of injury.
Incomplete spinal cord injuries can be differentiated, as patients will have some degree of movement or sensation in these parts of the body.
Complete spinal cord injury can be further classified as complete paraplegia or complete tetraplegia.
Complete paraplegia refers to patients who still have partial trunk movement, and are able to move their bodies short distances with the use of equipment.
Complete tetraplegia is more serious still, and extends to a loss of movement in hands, arms and other parts of the body, which can lead to ventilator systems being required to aid breathing.
Incomplete spinal cord injuries are even broader in definition, covering anterior, central and posterior cord syndrome - depending on which region of the spine is affected - and conditions such as Brown-Sequard syndrome, when one side of the spinal cord is damaged and movement and sensation are preserved in just one side of the body.
If you do sustain a spinal cord injury, you may also be at risk of developing further medical problems, including breathing difficulties, blood clots or problems involving the urinary tract and bowels.
The development of syrinxes (a syrinx results when a watery, protective substance known as cerebrospinal fluid, that normally flows around the spinal cord and brain, transporting nutrients and waste products, collects in a small area of the spinal cord and forms a pseudocyst) in the spinal cord should also be carefully considered.
You should have continuous MRI scanning to check for the development of syringomyelia (a generic term referring to a disorder in which a cyst or cavity forms within the spinal cord).
This cyst, called a syrinx, can expand and elongate over time, destroying the spinal cord.
The damage may result in pain, paralysis, weakness, and stiffness in the back, shoulders, and extremities.
Syringomyelia may also cause a loss of the ability to feel extremes of hot or cold, especially in the hands.
The disorder generally leads to a cape-like loss of pain and temperature sensation along the back and arms. Each patient experiences a different combination of symptoms. These symptoms typically vary depending on the extent and, often more critically, to the location of the syrinx within the spinal cord.