What are complete and incomplete spinal cord injuries?

Suffering from a spinal cord injury is a life-impacting event. When you are diagnosed with a spinal cord injury, you might hear the terms “complete” or “incomplete.” Those terms refer to the severity of the injury to the spinal cord.

What is the difference between complete and incomplete injuries?

The difference between these is often difficult to apply to cases. In general terms, an incomplete spinal cord injury means that you can still move below the level of the injury. A complete spinal cord injury means that you can’t move anything below the level of the injury.

How is the classification made?

There are two scales that are used to determine if a spinal cord injury is complete or incomplete. One scale is the ASIA scale. The other scale is the Frankel scale. The ASIA scale is the most common, and it uses five categories: A through E.

What do the categories mean?

Category A means a complete spinal cord injury because the patient has no function. Categories B, C and D are incomplete injuries. Category B involves sensory function only. Category C involves sensory and motor preservation. Category D involves useful motor function. Category E is a normal spinal cord, which means that all function is normal.

All spinal cord injuries are serious. These injuries often mean lengthy care plans. Those care plans mean that you may have to shell out money for doctor visits, assistive devices, therapy, medications and other needs. Because those expenses might be difficult to meet, you might opt to seek compensation for your injuries. Knowing how to seek compensation might help you decide if that is the path you want to take.

Source: Spinal Cord Injury Information Pages, “Spinal Cord Injury Levels & Classification,” accessed May. 22, 2015