What happens after a spinal cord injury? 5 important facts

Spinal cord injuries are some of the most catastrophic "whole body" events that a person can suffer. The number one cause of spinal cord injuries is trauma, which can result from a bad fall down a set of steps, a slip from a ladder or a car accident.

However, most people don't really understand the nature of spinal cord injuries. They don't know what they should expect in the weeks and months after they or someone they love get injured. Below are some facts about spinal cord injuries.

  • Your spinal cord doesn't have to be cut to cause you to become paralyzed. Even a bruise on the spinal cord is very serious.
  • The position of the injury determines what part of the body is going to be affected. Because your spinal cord operates like the "control room" for all the other nerves in the body flowing out and downward from the spine, every part of the body below the injury is likely to be affected.
  • Spinal cord injuries are often not the worst things victims have to endure. Infections are a major factor in fatal spinal cord injuries. The body's natural defenses against infection become weaker when voluntary movement ceases. Catheters and breathing tubes can also serve as doorways for bacteria and viruses that can easily kill someone in an already-weakened state.
  • It's very difficult to assess the extent of spinal cord injuries immediately after an accident. There's often improvement after the initial swelling subsides around the bruised spinal cord. But secondary events like toxins spreading into the body when patients turn septic can worsen the damage.
  • Treatment protocols for for spinal cord injuries have changed in the last few years. Post-injury life expectancy rates have gotten longer, and so have the ways doctors approach the injuries. Where surgeons once waited until the swelling went down to operate in order to relieve pressure on the spine, many now perform surgeries immediately once the patient has stablized.

If you've suffered a catastrophic injury to your spinal cord, talk to an attorney today to see if you have a right to compensation.

Source: The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, "Causes of a spinal cord injury," accessed Oct. 13, 2017

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