The Lifelong Impact and Legal Remedies
Paraplegia, a debilitating condition, can be present from birth or develop later in life. It results in paralysis of the legs and sometimes other lower body parts. Typically, paraplegia stems from spinal cord injuries, although certain medical conditions can also trigger it.
Paraplegia predominantly manifests as a symptom of an underlying medical condition, although it can, at times, result from accidents. Paraplegia itself can be categorized as complete or incomplete:
- Complete Injury: This indicates a total loss of function, encompassing the inability to move or feel sensations. Automatic functions like bladder and bowel control are also compromised.
- Incomplete Injury: In contrast, an incomplete injury implies a partial loss of function. Some sensation or movement may still exist, albeit often diminished.
The state of the paralyzed muscles may either be flaccid, causing them to be limp and nonfunctional, or spastic, leading to uncontrollable contractions and spasms.
Causes of Paraplegia
Paraplegia can result from various causes, including:
- Injury: Trauma to the spinal cord, frequently arising from car accidents, falls, sports injuries, gunshot wounds, violence, or other traumatic events, is a common cause.
- Tumors: Tumors near the spinal cord can exert pressure on or damage the spinal cord, leading to paraplegia.
- Infections: Spinal cord infections, such as abscesses, can cause inflammation and damage, potentially culminating in paraplegia.
- Vascular Disorders: Reduced blood supply or abnormal connections between arteries and veins can disrupt blood flow, potentially resulting in spinal cord damage.
- Inflammatory Disorders: Conditions like multiple sclerosis can induce spinal cord inflammation, leading to paraplegia.
- Degenerative Diseases: Progressive conditions like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) can lead to lower body function loss.
- Compression: Conditions such as herniated discs and vertebral fractures can compress the spinal cord, potentially causing paraplegia.
- Nerve Damage: Conditions like diabetes can cause nerve damage, which can result in loss of sensation in the lower body.
- Autoimmune Disorders: Some autoimmune diseases, like lupus, can cause inflammation and spinal cord damage.
- Birth Defects: Certain individuals are born with paraplegia due to congenital spinal cord anomalies, such as spina bifida.
Paraplegia and the Location of Injury
The spine consists of various sections, each comprising several vertebrae that form the backbone and shield the spinal cord. Paraplegia can occur with injuries in different spinal sections:
- Thoracic Spine: This upper back section includes 12 vertebrae and 12 spinal nerves.
- Lumbar Spine: Situated in the lower back, it comprises five vertebrae and five spinal nerves.
- Sacral Spine: These vertebrae join the spine and pelvis, consisting of five sacral vertebrae and nerves.
Healthcare professionals use a letter-number combination to reference spine sections. For instance, T1 denotes the spinal nerve positioned between the first and second thoracic vertebra.
The effects of paraplegia depend on the location:
- T1 to T6: Complete paraplegia results, paralyzing hips, legs, abdominal muscles, bladder and bowel control, and sometimes even coughing and breathing.
- T7 to T12: This level results in complete paraplegia similar to the above, with chest muscles unaffected.
- L1 to L2: Complete paraplegia, akin to the previous levels, except that it doesn’t affect chest and abdominal muscles and may also impede bladder and bowel control.
- L3 to S5: This level commonly leads to incomplete paraplegia, allowing for some walking, possibly with the aid of braces or a walker. Bladder and bowel control may still be compromised.
Prevention of Paraplegia
While it’s not always preventable, there are measures to reduce the risk of paraplegia resulting from spinal cord trauma:
- Safety Equipment: Wearing seat belts, helmets, and other protective gear can help avoid injuries that may lead to paraplegia.
- Firearm Safety: Treating firearms with extreme caution and storing them securely, especially in households with children, can prevent gunshot-induced spinal cord injuries.
- Fall Prevention: Employing safety harnesses and equipment when working at heights and installing handrails while eliminating tripping hazards in the home can mitigate the risk of falls.
As paraplegia has no cure, individuals may explore various treatments to manage the condition, incurring a range of medical expenses, such as:
- Long-Term Medical Costs: Survivors may face additional medical issues, such as bladder infections and bedsores, necessitating multiple medications, surgeries, therapies, and assistive devices.
- Unexpected Medical Costs: These include expenses like transportation, lodging, and meals when traveling to and from medical care.
- Alternative Medical Treatments: Many paraplegics pursue complementary therapies like massage, chiropractic care, and acupuncture.
- Caregiving Costs: Everyday tasks require assistance, whether from a family member or professional caregiver, leading to caregiving expenses.
- Loss of Income: Injuries can curtail or eliminate earning capacity, impacting household finances.
Contact Us Today
Paraplegia drastically affects mobility and life as a whole. Adjusting to such a condition is a significant life challenge. Paraplegia may be caused by negligence on the part of someone else. In such cases, the team at Quinn Injury Lawyers can help you explore your legal options. Reach out to our Philadelphia lawyers today to discuss your situation and schedule a free initial consultation by calling (877) 659-6070.
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