The human body is a machine like no other. Its central processing unit is the central nervous system comprised of the brain and spinal cord. This is the ultimate command center on which every tissue of the body relies on for its survival. Signals to every part to the body are sent from here to perform its own functions as well as participate as part of the whole unit. Hence, it is not difficult to imagine the extent of the consequences if it is harmed in anyway. The spinal cord, which is around 45 cm in length, is protected by the vertebral bones collectively called the vertebral column that enclose it completely. The cells that make up the brain and spinal cord are called neurons, and unfortunately, are one of the few types of cells that are incapable of regenerating once dead. The spinal cord doesn’t need to be severed for the disease symptoms to occur; it is the damage at tissue level that gives rise to debility.
A common cause of spinal injury is Missouri auto accidents particularly those involving semi-truck trailers and other heavy vehicles. There are around 10,000 new cases of spinal cord injury in the U.S every year, 36% of which are due to automobile accidents. These huge machines can leave a person with very severe injuries and disabilities that can seriously affect the quality of life.
TYPES OF SPINAL INJURIES
The kind of spinal injury sustained can be broadly classified into two types. One which depends on the level of the cord injured, while the other involves the type of tissue damage the trauma inflicts.
LEVELS OF SPINAL CORD INJURIES
These can either be cervical, thoracic or lumbar corresponding to the vertebral numbers. The cord ends at the level of second lumbar vertebra, below which there are a bunch of spinal roots known as the cauda equina or the horse’s tail. Injuries below the L2 level affect the cauda equina.
Cervical cord injury: this holds significance because the first or second vertebra surrounds the end of the brain which contains vital centers for respiration and circulation. Crushing of the vertebra at this level leads to instantaneous death, and is seen in judiciary hanging sentences. The cervical cord supplies nerves to the muscles of the upper limb. Severing of the cord at these level results in paralysis of all four limbs called quadriplegia.
Thoracic cord injury: this level of the cord gives out the intercostal nerves running on the inner surfaces of ribs supplying the muscles attached to the ribs as well as the overlying skin
Lumbar cord injury: it supplies to the hips, lower limbs, and the pelvic and anal region. Severing of cord at these level results in paralysis of both lower limbs called paraplegia.
TYPES OF SPINAL CORD INJURIES:
Depending on the extent of tissue damage, these injuries can be classified as follows:
Spinal cord contusions: these are the most commonly occurring injuries to the spinal cord. The mild trauma only leads to bleeding of the vessels inside the cord, as a consequence of which there is temporary inflammation and bruising. This leads to a brief loss of functions of the cord followed by spontaneous recovery.
Anterior cord syndrome: this occurs when the anterior portion the cord is damaged, affecting the motor functions i.e. movement as well as some sensory function.
Central cord syndrome: when the central portion of the cord is hurt, rendering loss of both sensory and motor functions, more of arms than of legs. Spontaneous recovery occurs, up to a period of six weeks.
Brown-sequard syndrome: when either the left or right side of the cord is damaged, this disorder results. It affects the motor and sensory functions on the same side of the body below the level of lesion, while affecting the pain and temperature sensation of the opposite side as the nerve fibers carrying these sensations are crossed.
Cauda equina syndrome: results from damage to the spinal roots.
If the ability of movement and sensation is lost almost completely below the level of lesion, it is called complete injury. If partial functions are preserved then it is termed as incomplete injury.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF SPINAL INJURY
They may be apparent immediately after the injury or after a certain period of time, making them one of the most dangerous injuries.
- Intense pain in the region of the cord after injury
- Weakening or paralysis in any part of the body
- Numbness, tingling in arms or legs
- Loss of pain, temperature or touch sensations
- Bladder or bowel control impairment
- Difficulty in breathing
- Spasms or exaggerated reflexes
SPINAL INJURY TREATMENT
After the injury is confirmed through an x-ray, CT scan or MRI, following treatment options are considered:
- Medications to reduce the swelling bruising, as well as improving bladder and bowel functions and muscle movements
- Electric stimulation devices
It depends up on the degree of injury sustained by the cord, the level of injury, the urgency of diagnosis and treatment. Unfortunately, in a majority of cases full recover is never accomplished.
Thus, to minimize the damage to the cord, a physician must be referred to immediately after an automobile accident. If you have suffered a spinal injury as the result of a Missouri truck accident, it is imperative that you contact a skilled Missouri truck accident lawyer. For more information on your legal rights following a Missouri or St. Louis semi-truck accident, contact personal injury lawyer Chris Dixon at 314.409.7060, or toll-free at 855-402-7274.