“Prevention is Cure”
Today, we celebrate the victors who daily live with the resultant complications of a Spinal Cord Injury [SCI].
Spinal cord injury (SCI) and the resultant paralysis has devastating physical, mental, social, sexual and vocational consequences for the injured. In addition, the injury increases the economic burden on the person who sustains a SCI and potentially his or her entire support network. As per the statistics from the USA, depending on the severity, SCI can cost an injured individual USD 334,000 to 1 million in the first year after injury. Costs in each subsequent year range from USD 41,000 to 178,000. And it isn’t always bad luck that causes spinal cord injuries. In many cases, it is carelessness, recklessness, ignorance or bad decisions.
All spinal cord injuries are divided into two broad categories: incomplete and complete.
Incomplete spinal cord injuries: With incomplete injuries, the cord is only partially severed, allowing the injured person to retain some function. In these cases, the degree of function depends on the extent of the injuries.
Complete spinal cord injuries: By contrast, complete injuries occur when the spinal cord is fully severed, eliminating function. Though, with treatment and physical therapy, it may be possible to regain some function.
Incomplete spinal cord injuries are increasingly common, thanks in part to better treatment and increased knowledge about how to respond—and how not to respond—to a suspected spinal cord injury. These injuries now account for more than 60% of spinal cord injuries, which means we’re making real progress toward better treatment and better outcomes.
Some of the most common types of incomplete or partial spinal cord injuries include:
Anterior cord syndrome: This type of injury, to the front of the spinal cord, damages the motor and sensory pathways in the spinal cord. You may retain some sensation but struggle with movement.
Central cord syndrome: This injury is an injury to the center of the cord, and damages nerves that carry signals from the brain to the spinal cord. Loss of fine motor skills, paralysis of the arms, and partial impairment—usually less pronounced—in the legs are common. Some survivors also suffer a loss of bowel or bladder control or lose the ability to sexually function.
Brown-Sequard syndrome: This variety of injury is the product of damage to one side of the spinal cord. The injury may be more pronounced on one side of the body; for instance, movement may be impossible on the right side but may be fully retained on the left. The degree to which Brown-Sequard patients are injured greatly varies from patient to patient.
Knowing the location of your injury and whether or not the injury is complete can help you begin researching your prognosis and asking your doctor intelligent questions. Doctors assign different labels to spinal cord injuries depending upon the nature of those injuries. The most common types of spinal cord injuries include:
Tetraplegia: These injuries, which are the result of damage to the cervical spinal cord, are typically the most severe, producing varying degrees of paralysis of all limbs. Sometimes known as quadriplegia, tetraplegia eliminates your ability to move below the site of the injury and may produce difficulties with bladder and bowel control, respiration, and other routine functions. The higher up on the cervical spinal cord the injury is, the more severe symptoms will likely be.
Paraplegia: This occurs when sensation and movement are removed from the lower half of the body, including the legs. These injuries are the product of damage to the thoracic spinal cord. As with cervical spinal cord injuries, injuries are typically more severe when they are closer to the top vertebra.
Triplegia: Triplegia causes loss of sensation and movement in one arm and both legs, and is typically the product of an incomplete spinal cord injury.
Injuries below the lumbar spinal cord do not typically produce symptoms of paralysis or loss of sensation. They can, however, produce nerve pain, reduce function in some areas of the body, and necessitate several surgeries to regain function. Injuries to the sacral spinal cord, for instance, can interfere with bowel and bladder function, cause sexual problems, and produce weakness in the hips or legs. In very rare cases, sacral spinal cord injury survivors suffer temporary or partial paralysis.
The goal of management is to get the spinal injured to lead an inclusive life. Because of the permanence of disability in complete injuries, prevention assumes special significance. The common saying is, ‘Prevention is better than cure’. But in fact, where a spinal cord injury is concerned, ‘Prevention is Cure’.