An overview of Colorado spinal cord injuries

Spinal cord injuries are serious conditions resulting from trauma to the spine that may have life-changing implications and require extensive medical care.

Serving as a messenger between the brain and the rest of the human body, the spinal cord is a bunch of nerves that runs down the center of people's backs. Every year in the U.S., approximately 17,000 people suffer spinal cord injuries, or SCIs, according to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center. People in Colorado and elsewhere may suffer such injuries due to falls, motor vehicle collisions, violence and any other number of accidents. Due to the seriousness of SCIs, it is important for people to know what to expect after they suffer such trauma.

Classifications of SCIs

Trauma to the spinal cord may interrupt the messages that it carries, potentially affecting people's sensory and motor function. Depending on the type and severity of SCIs, they may be classified as incomplete or complete. With incomplete SCIS, those harmed retain some motor function and feeling below the neurological level of their injuries. They may have more movement on one side of the body than the other or in one limb more than the other. People who suffer complete SCIs, on the other hand, are equally affected on both sides of the body and lose almost all or all their sensory function and movement control below their injuries.

Common SCI symptoms

Depending on a number of factors, including the severity, type and location of their injuries, people who suffer SCIs may experience a range of symptoms. In addition to the onset of paraplegia, triplegia or quadriplegia, some of the most common signs of SCIs include the following:

  • Muscle spasticity
  • Loss of bladder and bowel function
  • Digestive problems
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Numbness or tingling in extremities

These symptoms may affect people's quality of life following significant trauma to their neck or back. Additionally, they may cause complications including urinary tract or kidney infections, kidney or bladder stones, pneumonia or other lung problems, blood clots and other circulatory issues, and depression.

Treating SCIs

Emergency treatment is often critical for SCIs and involves maintaining people's ability to breath, immobilizing them to ensure there is no further damage and taking steps to prevent shock. In some cases, surgery or other procedures may also be required or the steroid, methylprednisolone administered to help limit the nerve cell damage. There is, however, no way to reverse or repair spinal cord damage at this time.

After their initial injuries stabilize, people who suffer SCIs often undergo physical and occupational therapy to help redevelop their fine motor skills, strengthen and maintain their existing muscle function, and learn adaptive techniques. They may also be prescribed medications, require monitoring or need additional procedures to treat resulting symptoms or complications.

Life after an SCI

Recovering from SCIs is a long road for many. Immediately following and for the remainder of their lives, people who suffer SCIs may require extensive medical treatment, which may carry undue costs. Further, they may be forced to take time off work to recover or be left unable to return to their jobs as a result of their injuries, potentially costing them income.

When SCIs are caused by auto accidents or other recklessness or negligence, those responsible may be liable for the resulting damages in Colorado. Thus, those with SCIs who have experienced such situations may benefit from consulting with an attorney. A lawyer may help them understand their rights and explain their options for pursuing financial compensation.