Obtaining Legal Assistance Following a Spinal Cord Injury
A spinal cord injury typically occurs in response to a sudden and traumatic blow to the back that dislocates and/or fractures vertebrae. Damage results from displaced bone fragments, torn ligaments, or disc tissue entering the spinal cord. Whereas most spinal cord injuries do not involve complete severing of the cord itself, any foreign material has the potential to compromise or destroy nerve signals which can result in minor localized nerve damage or major partial or complete paralysis. These injuries are classified as either incomplete—where the spinal cord maintains the ability to convey messages between it and the brain—or complete—where a total lack of motor and/or sensory function exists below the spot of the injury.
Improved emergency and trauma care for individuals with spinal cord injuries have minimized damage severity. Among the types of treatment include:
- Breathing and respiratory support
- Steroid medications which have demonstrated reduced nerve cell damage if administered within the first eight hours after injury
- Physical therapy and rehabilitation
- Electrical nerve stimulation to restore certain bodily functions
In some cases, surgery is necessary to relieve spinal tissue compression resulting from broken or dislocated bones or other foreign tissues entering the spinal cord. The different types of surgeries include:
- Laminectomy—removal of the entire bony lamina, areas of enlarged facet joints, and thickened ligaments overlying nerves and the cord
- Laminotomy—removal of a small section of lamina and ligaments, typically on one side
- Foraminotomy—removal of bone around the space between vertebrae where nerves exit the spinal cord
- Laminaplasty—expansion of the spinal canal by cutting it on one side, usually done in the cervical area
- Spinal fusion—utilization of a bone graft from the pelvis to construct a bridge between adjacent vertebrae which enables new bone to grow
- Discectomy—removal of herniated disc material that causes pressure on the spinal cord or nerve root
Whereas incomplete injuries maintain a degree of motor or sensory function below the injury, many people who survive these types of spinal cord injuries typically have medical complications such as bladder incontinence, bowel dysfunction, or chronic pain, as well as a higher susceptibility to respiratory and cardiac problems. The ability to effectively manage these conditions is the key to successful recovery.
For more serious injuries, the evidence demonstrates that early surgical intervention—decompression and stabilization—along with aggressive physical therapy and rehabilitation promotes better recovery. Most recovery occurs within the first six months following the injury, and any remaining loss of sensory or motor function after 12 months is typically permanent.
If you or someone you know has suffered a spinal cord injury, please contact us today to discuss your options.