Paraplegia Injury Lawyers
Personal Injury Lawyers - Representing People Nationwide
Paraplegia is an impairment of motor and/or sensory function characterized by paralysis of the lower half of the body including the legs. Paraplegia is usually caused by damage to the spinal cord but can also be caused by a congenital condition. If the arms are also affected by paralysis, the proper term for the condition is quadriplegia or tetraplegia.
Paraplegia may result from trauma, tumors (chronic compression of the spinal cord), multiple sclerosis, myelitis transversa, and spina bifida, among others. Trauma, the most common cause, is usually as the result of compression or transsection of the spinal cord, often from bone fragments from vertebral fractures. The most common causes of spinal cord injuries include:
- Vehicular accidents 37%
- Violence 28%
- Falls 21%
- Sports-related 6%
- Other 8%
Of the quarter million Americans who have spinal cord injuries, 52 percent are considered paraplegic. And two thirds of those with spinal cord injuries are under the age of 30.
Because paraplegia is usually caused by damage to the spinal cord, through which nerve impulses travel between the brain and the body, paraplegia usually also results in malfunctioning sensory nerves in the brain. This in itself is dangerous because in certain body parts, the patient may not be able to feel pain or heat.
But it leads further to other complications due to the brain's loss of control over several physiological functions. So in addition to the lack of mobility, paraplegia can diminish the patient's quality of life by affecting his or her sexual drive and performance, digestion, and bladder control among others.
The most dangerous potential complication of paraplegia, however, occurs when brain impulses to respiratory muscles are disrupted, resulting in damage to the respiratory system. Respiratory diseases, most commonly pneumonia, pulmonary emboli and septicemia, are the leading causes of death among those with paraplegia. Other outcomes of these disruptions range from sleep apnea, which causes irregular nighttime breathing and sleeping problems, to the need for the use of a ventilator.
Other complications include loss of skin elasticity, pressure sores, osteoporosis, bone fractures, and blood flow irregularities such as autonomic dysreflexia (AD). AD can lead further to bladder disorders and stroke.
There is no cure for paraplegia, and therapy focuses on treating the symptoms. In some cases in which the spinal cord injury is caused by swelling, some function of the lower limbs may return as the swelling subsides. Unfortunately, however, cases in which all functioning is regained are extremely rare.
Paraplegia usually requires costly, long-term treatment. If you or a loved one is suffering from the condition, you may be entitled to compensation for medical costs and lost wages among other damages. A personal injury attorney specializing in spinal cord injuries can apprise you of your legal rights.