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Spinal Cord Injury Awareness

Reasons to choose Wilson Browne

A spinal cord injury (SCI) is damage to any part of the spinal cord or nerves at the end of the spinal canal (Cauda Equina). An injury often causes permanent changes in strength, sensation and other bodily functions below the site of injury.

The Central Nervous System (CNS) is made up of the brain and spinal cord. The spinal cord extends downwards from the base of the brain and is made up of nerves called tracts which go to different parts of the body. A SCI results in the communication between the nerves and the brain being disrupted which can result in serious consequences.

The ability to control your limbs after a SCI depends on two factors:-

  1. The place of the injury along your spinal cord
  2. The severity of the injury

The lowest normal, unaffected part of your spinal cord is referred to as the neurological level of injury. The severity is often called the ‘’completeness’’ and is classified into two categories:-

‘Complete’– when all feeling and all ability to control movement is lost below the SCI.

‘incomplete’– when there is some feeling and ability to control movement below the affected area.

There are varying degrees of incompleteness.

Paralysis due to the SCI can be referred to as either Paraplegia or Tetraplegia. Paraplegia is when the trunk, legs and pelvic organs are affected only. Tetraplegia or quadriplegia is when the arms, hands, trunk, legs and pelvic organs are all affected. Usually, if the nerves are damaged in the neck, an individual will become quadriplegic but if the injury is to the back, they will become paraplegic although this is not always a certainty.

Symptoms of a SCI:

  • Loss of movement
  • Loss of sensation to feel warmth, cold and touch
  • Pain or an intense stinging sensation

Emergency signs and symptoms after an accident which could be a SCI:

  • Extreme back pain or pressure in the head and back
  • Weakness, incoordination or paralysis
  • Numbness, tingling or loss of sensation
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Impaired breathing

Following an accident, it is safer to assume that a trauma victim has a spinal injury until proved otherwise. This is due to a number of reasons including:-

  • Spinal cord injuries not always being immediately obvious and a more severe injury could therefore occur.
  • Spinal cord injuries can come on gradually as bleeding or swelling occurs in or around the spinal cord.
  • The time between the injury and treatment can be critical in determining the extent and severity of complications and suspected recovery.


SCI may result from damage to the vertebrae, ligaments or discs of the spinal column or the spinal cord itself. It can stem from a sudden traumatic blow to the spine that fractures, dislocates, crushes or compresses one or more of your vertebrae. SCI can also result from a gunshot or knife wound that penetrates and cuts the spinal cord.

Any additional damage usually occurs over days or even weeks due to bleeding, swelling, inflammation and fluid accumulation.

SCI can also be caused through non-traumatic injuries such as arthritis, cancer, infections or disc degeneration.

Most common causes:

  1. Road Traffic Accidents: These account for almost half of new SCI’s every year.
  2. Falls: SCI’s in those over 65 years of age are most likely caused by a fall accounting for 15% of new injuries every year.
  3. Violence: Violence accounts for 12% of SCI’s including gun and knife wounds.
  4. Sports: SCI’s as a result of sporting events accounts for appxorimately 10%.
  5. Alcohol
  6. Diseases: including cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis.

The spinal cord can recover from the shock of an injury and an individual may find themselves slowly progressing following diagnosis. This may take up to two years to achieve, however, the two year mark is usually where an individual will remain at for life and they will unlikely progress further after this point.

There is still no repair or cure for spinal cord injuries.

Spinal Cord Injuries and Medical Negligence:

Medical mistakes can lead to a SCI such as:-

  • Mistakes from facet joint operation and caudal epidurals
  • Cauda Equina Syndrome
  • Missed fractures of the neck and back
  • Ill handling of patients with a SCI
  • A delay in treating a SCI
  • Misdiagnosis problems with the spine i.e a blood clot

SCI’s can be life changing and if caused by medical negligence, can be compensated for to help an individual and their families cope with the rest of their lives.

If you are concerned talk to the Medical Negligence team on 0800 088 6004. We are happy to offer a free initial telephone consultation with a member of our specialist team and subject to agreement we can offer no win – no fee agreements.