What are the different levels of spinal cord injuries?

An injured spinal cord can lead to considerable dysfunction for various systems of the body. The location of the injury has a big impact on what systems of the body can be affected. It can also affect how these systems can be affected. Generally, a higher level injury, meaning one that occurs higher on the spinal cord, will lead to more serious dysfunction.

What can lumbar level spinal cord injuries cause?

The lumbar area of the spine is the lowest level. Injuries in this area can lead to a decrease or loss of bladder and bowel function. It can lead to loss of function in the legs, but the person might still be able to walk with braces. Some people might need to use a wheelchair.

What can thoracic level spinal cord injuries cause?

The thoracic area is in the middle of the back. Injuries to this area can lead to paralysis of the legs, but hand an arm function aren’t affected. People with a thoracic injury will likely be able to use a manual wheel chair. In some cases, they might be able to drive if the vehicle is modified. If the injury is higher on the thoracic spinal cord, the muscles in the mid-back, upper chest, and abdominal area might be affected.

What can cervical level spinal cord injuries cause?

The upper spinal cord through the neck is known as the cervical area. Injuries in this area are usually the most devastating. Injuries that occur higher in the cervical spine are likely going to result in full paralysis that requires around-the-clock care. Some people might need help breathing. Specialized power wheelchairs are often necessary.

If the injury occurs in the lower cervical spine, the upper limbs might be functional. Some activities might require assistance, but around-the-clock care might not be needed.

The care that a spinal cord injury patient needs comes at a great financial expense. Fighting for compensation might help to cover some of the costs of the care.

Source: Shepherd Center, “Levels of Injury,” accessed Jan. 14, 2016

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