Quadriplegia and Tetraplegia Claims Attorneys
Personal Injury Lawyers - Representing People Nationwide
Quadriplegia is characterized by paralysis, although not necessarily total paralysis, affecting all four limbs. If only the lower half of the body is affected, the condition is known as paraplegia. If three limbs are affected, it is known as triplegia. If one side of the body is paralyzed, the condition is known as hemiplegia (hemiparesis is a less serious condition in which one side of the body is weakened, not paralyzed). Tetraplegia is a more proper term for quadriplegia (both prefix and suffix are of Greek origin), but quadriplegia is the more commonly used lay term in the U.S.
Quadriplegia can occur as the result of an injury to, or lesion in, the brain or one of the eight cervical (top) segments of the spinal cord. One can break one's neck and not become paraplegic if the spinal cord is not damaged. It is also possible to injure the spinal cord without breaking the spine, such as when a bony spur or ruptured intervertebral disc protrudes into the spinal column.
There are about a quarter million Americans who are spinal cord injured. Of the approximately 11,000 spinal cord injuries that occur each year, 82 percent are male, and 47 percent result in quadriplegia. Since 2000, the most common causes of spinal cord injuries, in order of frequency, are motor vehicle accidents, falls, acts of violence (mostly gunshot wounds), and recreational sports.
Symptoms vary depending on the extent of the injury and the level of the spinal cord at which the injury takes place. An injury at the highest vertebra will likely result in loss of function from the neck down, and the patient will probably require a ventilator. An individual with an injury at a lower cervical vertebra may retain some use of the arms and hands. Depending on the injury symptoms may include:
- Impairment of limbs
- Loss of sensation in affected areas
- Burning neuropathic pain in affected areas
- Loss of bowel control
- Loss of bladder control
- Loss of sexual drive and performance
- Loss in digestive function
- Respiratory complications and infections
- Autonomic dysreflexia
- Loss of other autonomic functions
- Pressure sores
- Osteoporosis/bone fractures
- Frozen joints
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Cardiovascular disease
Unfortunately, diagnosis of cervical spine injury is sometimes delayed. Nearly one third of cases in which this happens develop permanent neurological problems. Of the five percent of patients whose cervical fractures that are missed, about two-thirds have further spinal cord damage as a result.
High-level quadriplegics (those with injuries at the C5 vertebra and above) usually require constant care and assistance, while most lower level quadriplegics can live independently. In rare cases, slight movement can be regained with intensive rehabilitation.
If you or a loved one received a spinal cord injury that resulted in quadriplegia, you may be entitled to compensation. A personal injury attorney who specializes in spinal cord injury cases can evaluate your case and apprise you of your legal rights.