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The Anatomy of a Spinal Cord Injury
Spinal cord injuries are serious, and it may not be obvious that someone has a spinal cord injury. The treatment given to a person immediately after he of she has suffered an injury to the spinal cord is critical to limiting the amounting of harm done and preventing secondary injuries from occurring. Contact Culpepper Kurland in Tampa, FL, today to schedule a consultation with a personal injury attorney to discuss whether you may be eligible for compensation for your spinal cord injury.
The spinal cord is surrounded by bones called vertebrae that protect it from injury. The spinal cord and vertebrae make up the spinal column. The spinal cord is part of the central nervous system and delivers signals between the brain and the rest of the body. The spinal cord is made up of many types of nerve fibers and cells. The spinal column is divided into five distinct segments from top to bottom:
- Cervical vertebrae (neck) — controls back of the head, neck, shoulders, arms, hands, diaphragm
- Thoracic vertebrae (upper back) — controls chest muscles, some back muscles, parts of the abdomen
- Lumbar vertebrae (middle back) — controls lower abdomen, lower back, buttocks, some parts of the legs, some parts of the external genital organs
- Sacral vertebrae (hips) — controls thighs, lower parts of legs, feet, most of the external genital organs, area around the anus
- Coccygeal vertebrae (tailbone) — controls sensation from the skin on the lower back
Level of injury to the spinal cord
The level of injury refers to the segment of the spinal cord damaged by the injury below which function has been lost, either completely or partially — meaning that the ability of the brain to send and receive messages down the spinal cord has been impaired or severed altogether. The higher up the injury to the spinal column, the more function lost. For example, a person in a car accident who suffers a C5 injury will have lost more function than a person in a similar accident with a L4 injury.
Complete injury and incomplete injury
An incomplete injury to the spinal cord means that the injured person retains some level of function below the level of injury. This function can be mobility (ability to move) or sensory (ability to feel sensation). A complete injury to the spinal cord means that the injured person does not retain any function below the level of injury on either side of the body, meaning he or she cannot move or feel anything below this level.
Immediate treatment of spinal cord injuries
While a spinal cord injury can occur from an illness or disease (like a tumor), the most common cause is a traumatic injury that dislocates or fractures the vertebrae protecting the spinal cord. This contact can cause hemorrhage and swelling of the spinal cord, tearing of the cord or disruption of the spinal nerves. The spinal cord is rarely severed completely.
Immediately after a suspected spinal cord injury, it is critical to take action to stabilize the spine and prevent or minimize secondary injuries. Secondary injuries are those that occur after the initial trauma and can exacerbate the damage to the spinal cord. Thus, immediate treatment of a spinal cord injury includes:
- Determining if there are any structural problems with the spine that need to be surgically repaired
- Determining if there is compression on the spine that needs to be surgically relieved
- Minimizing the damage to the nerve cells with the use of steroids (methylprednisolone)
- Stabilizing and reducing the vertebrae
- Immobilizing the patient
If the person suffered a high spinal cord injury in the cervical vertebrae, he or she may be unable to breathe without the help of a ventilator. If you come into contact with a person you suspect has suffered a spinal cord injury, call an ambulance and do not attempt to move him or her, or you could make the injury worse.
Speak to a personal injury lawyer
If you have suffered a spinal cord injury, contact Culpepper Kurland in Tampa, FL, today to schedule a consultation with a personal injury attorney to discuss your legal options. You may be entitled to compensation for your injury.
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