Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI)


Persons with paraplegica and quadriplegica are paralyzed in their extremities and in their torsos. Most persons with paraplegica and quadriplegica have loss of sensation below the level of injury and loss of controlled function of the bladder and bowel. Paralysis is caused by injury to or disease of the spinal cord and the degree of paralysis depends upon the level of injury in the spinal cord. Injuries are classified by the level at which the spinal cord is injured.

The cord is classified into cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and sacral regions, and each group has at least five letters of the name of the group and numbers are used to specify the level in each group. Thus, a T-10-11 paraplegic has had a spinal cord injury in the thoracic group, between cord level 10 and 11. This person would be paralyzed from that level down.

Paraplegia

The paralysis of the lower extremities and part or all of the trunk muscles as a result of injury or disease of the spinal cord. A paraplegic will typically have strong arms and hands but weak legs and must rely on a wheelchair for mobility. Usually there is a loss of sensation in paralyzed limbs and other unpleasant side effects such as muscle spasms, pain, and loss of bowel and bladder control.

Quadriplegic

Damage to the spinal cord nerve at a higher level (in the neck area, which causes impairment to the hands and arms. This is an addition to the symptoms of paraplegia.

Hemiplegia

Paraplegia and quadriplegia result from nerve damage. The brain is not affected so there is no impairment of intellect, personality or speech or senses. These should not be confused with hemiplegia due to a stroke or traumatic brain injury. Hemiplegia is a paralysis of one side of the body. While mobility may often be impaired to the extent that a wheelchair is required, the combination of symptoms are complex and may or may not also include tremors, sensory and cognitive impairment, and speech impairment.