Any injury to the spinal cord will result in significant disability. When that injury is below the neck, in the area of the chest (thoracic) or in the area of the abdomen (lumbar), the result is an inability to move both legs. This is called paraplegia. When the injury is in the neck area (cervical), the result is an inability to move both arms and legs. This is called quadriplegia. In addition to loss of movement of the arms or legs, or both, the bowel and bladder (which are controlled by nerves from the spinal cord) can also be affected, resulting in a significant disability involving all activities of daily living.
Injury to the spinal cord can be caused by direct trauma, most commonly in an automobile or other high-speed accident. Such trauma can cause fracture of the bones (vertebrae) that surround and protect the spinal cord. When one or more of these vertebrae fracture, the spinal column can become unstable, resulting in pressure and injury to the spinal cord.
The fragility of the spinal column is the main reason why all victims of an automobile accident are moved using a backboard and cervical collar to prevent any movement of the neck. This must be done before any x-rays are taken to determine if there is any fracture in the neck. Sometimes, as a result of negligent medical care in the emergency room, a patient may be moved without proper stabilization of a neck fracture, causing spinal cord injuries that would have been prevented with proper care.
Injury to the spinal cord can also occur as a result of a tumor or infection (abscess) that progresses more slowly. Although these cases are rare, their slow rate of progress provides an opportunity to diagnose and treat the injury before any paraplegia or quadriplegia occurs. These cases can be more difficult to diagnose, but the time required to produce a permanent injury usually make such injuries preventable with proper care.
Since any injury to the spinal cord will produce significant long-term consequences for any patient and their family, it is important to have the medical records carefully reviewed by a medical malpractice attorney who understands the nature and development of these injuries. While many attorneys will be able to handle the automobile accident aspect of any significant injury, a spinal cord injury that was caused by negligent medical care requires a more specialized attorney.
Call Thering, PLLC at 866-996-7123 to learn how we can help you.