What is Spinal Cord Injury?
One of the most feared injuries is damage to the spinal cord. The backbone or spine consists of hollow bony structures. These vertebrae form a spinal canal for the spinal cord. The spinal cord is an essential component of the nervous system. It conveys signals from the brain to the limbs and other parts of the body.
Violent or traumatic force often fractures or crushes the vertebrae. This will create pressure, bruising or tearing of the spinal cord. Any of these injuries will damage or destroy the nerves of the spinal cord. This damage will cause a partial or total loss of motion and sensation in the effected parts of the body. Paralysis is a frequent result of SCI. If the injury is in the lower spine, the paralysis affects the legs and lower trunk. This condition is paraplegia. When the SCI is higher, it can cause quadriplegia, or tetraplegia.
Secondary Complications of SCI
The secondary medical complications that are attributable to SCI are significant. The effects result in lifetime medical needs. The medical issues include:
Loss of bladder and bowel functions
Circulatory and heart problems
Vulnerability to diseases
General deterioration of health
Because of these complications, the initial and lifetime medical expenses for SCI are significant. A 27 year-old victim of SCI will incur more than $1 million dollars in medical costs over their lifetime.
Causes of SCI
There are over 11,000 cases of SCI reported annually. Approximately 250,000 individuals are SCI patients in the U.S. Of this number, just over half are paraplegic, and the remainder are quadriplegic. There are over 11,000 cases of SCI reported annually. The single biggest cause of SCI is vehicular accidents, with motorcycles accidents a primary factor. Falls and sporting accidents are the two largest categories after vehicular accidents as sources of SCI. Birth defects and medical malpractice cases total just over four percent of all causes.
Immediate Treatment of SCI
The training of first responders stresses the importance of handling victims of SCI with extreme care. Injuries during transport can substantially increase the damage to the spinal cord. Swelling of the spinal cord commences immediately. Shifting of crushed bones is the source of significant secondary damage. Once at the medical facility, primary attention focuses on immobilizing the patient and dealing with secondary complications.
Post Acute Treatment of SCI
Swelling of the spinal cord will delay full diagnosis until a day or two after the initial injury. At that time, full imaging allows diagnosis of the extent of injury. The primary diagnostic tool used is the American Spinal Institute Assessment Scale.
The spinal cord is unable to heal itself. There is little direct treatment that can be rendered. The medical focus is on rehabilitation and therapy.
Legal Issues Stemming from SCI
All states have well-developed case law and statutes dealing with personal injury. Personal injury laws address SCI caused by the negligence of another. A victim may be entitled to recover medical expenses, lost wages, damages for pain and suffering, and payment for future expenses and care. Other damages may also be awarded. SCI presents unique and complex legal issues. Competent medical personnel often serve as expert witnesses. A personal injury lawyer with SCI experience is of significant value in assessing potential negligence and liability. This includes from the initial accident, during transport and during medical care. Reviewing the facts surrounding an SCI at the earliest possible time can be of importance in establishing fault and recovering damages.
Byline: Travis is a recovering spinal injury victim, and hence has become very knowledgeable of back-related legal issues.