What is the Difference Between an Incomplete and Complete Spinal Cord Injury?

Spinal cord injuries are some of the most traumatic and devastating injuries that a person can sustain. However, not all spinal cord injuries are the same.  Some spinal cord injuries are characterized as partial or incomplete spinal cord injuries whereas others are classified as complete spinal cord injuries. No matter what the personal injury is classified as there is a substantial likelihood that a person’s life will be changed after suffering from one of these injuries. Fayetteville AR personal injury lawyer Ken Kieklak explains.

Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries

Incomplete spinal cord injuries are severe injuries, which do not rise to the level of a complete spinal cord injury. Therefore these injuries are more prevalent and are more common than complete spinal cord injuries. Generally, incomplete spinal cord injuries fall into one of five separate classifications. If you or a loved one has experienced one of these injuries, it is important to contact an experienced Fayetteville spine disability lawyer today to explore your best options.

Anterior cord syndrome: this injury is characterized by damage to the front of the spinal cord. The injuries and resulting symptoms and ailments one might expect from this injury include impaired temperature, touch, and pain sensations below the point of injury. Some movement can later be recovered.

Central cord syndrome: this type of incomplete spinal injury is characterized by damage to the center of the spinal cord. Injuries and impairments that result from central cord syndrome are generally observed in loss of function in the arms, however there generally is some leg movement. In these cases there is the possibility that the condition will improve over time.

Posterior cord syndrome: Posterior cord syndrome incomplete spinal cord injuries are characterized by damage to the back of the spinal cord, resulting in good muscle power, pain, and temperature sensation, but poor coordination.

Brown-Sequard syndrome: characterized by damage to one side of the spinal cord, resulting in impaired loss of movement but preserved sensation on one side of the body, and preserved movement and loss of sensation on the other side of the body.

Cauda equina lesion: characterized by injury to the nerves located between the first and second lumbar region of the spine, resulting in partial or complete loss of sensation. In some cases, nerves regrow and function is recovered.

An incomplete spinal cord injury is characterized by some degree of sensation and movement in the limbs below the point of injury.  With an incomplete injury, there is generally a period of time when medical professionals are not sure how extensive the damage is. The extent of an incomplete injury is generally determined after spinal shock has subsided. It can take approximately six or eight weeks after a traumatic spinal cord injury for the doctors to determine the extent of the damage and injury. Unlike a complete spinal cord injury incomplete spinal injuries can often result in some feeling, however oftentimes there is little or no movement. Conversely, in some cases there is some noted movement, however, there is little to no feeling. A skilled Arkansas spinal cord injury lawyer can help you recover compensation for these medical expenses and lost wages.

Complete Spinal Cord Injuries

Complete Spinal cord injuries, as opposed to incomplete spinal cord injuries, are described as damage to the spinal cord, which is absolute. In most cases, complete spinal cord injuries result in permanent loss of the spinal cord’s ability to send sensory and motor nerve impulses. In most cases when a person has sustained a complete spinal cord injury they usually suffer from a permanent loss of function below the level of the injury.  Similar to an incomplete spinal cord injury, it can take anywhere from six to eight weeks for the full extent of a complete spinal cord injury to be realized. However, after this period of spinal cord shock is over, doctors will be able to determine the extent of an injury. If you have suffered any of the below injuries, it is imperative to contact an experienced Fort Smith spinal cord injury lawyer immediately.

Complete paraplegia: this is a term used to describe the complete and permanent loss of the spinal cord to send or receive sensory and motor nerve impulses to the muscle groups. These cases typically involve the legs

Complete tetraplegia: this is a far more debilitating prognosis than complete paraplegia. In these cases, the arms are often paralyzed in addition to the legs.

While an incomplete spinal cord injury can generally result in a much wider array of injuries, complete spinal cord injuries often result in one of these types of paralysis.

Classification of Spinal Cord Injury Severity

When a patient has sustained a spinal cord injury they will often have to wait an agonizing six to eight weeks before they know the extent of their injuries. This is because of a phenomenon is known as spinal cord shock. However, once the swelling and fluids go down subsequent to spinal cord shock, many clinician will use the ASIA Impairment Scale to grade the severity of neurological loss following a spinal cord injury.  Almost every major organization associated with spinal cord injury has adopted the ASIA scale, and specialists at the hospital usually use the scale to assess the patient’s level of injury.

A – Complete:  No motor or sensory function is preserved in the S4-S5 sacral segments

B – Incomplete:  Sensory function but not motor function is preserved below the neurological level and includes the S4-S5 sacral segments.

C – Incomplete:  Motor function is preserved below the neurological level, and more than half of key muscles below the neurological level have a muscle grade less than 3.

D – Incomplete:  Motor function is preserved below the neurological level, and at least half of key muscles below the neurological level have a muscle grade of 3 or more.

E – Normal:  Motor and sensory function are normal.

Many of these injuries result in lifelong injuries and require extensive treatment. In the case of an incomplete spinal cord injury those who are recovering may be required to walk with the assistance of a cane or walker. In the case of the complete spinal cord injury, a person may be permanently confined to a wheelchair and may require extensive and intensive medical care and around the clock care.

Suffering From a Spinal Cord Injury? Let Our Disability Lawyers Help

If you or a loved one has been hurt by the negligence or careless actions of another party, you do not have to suffer from the consequences on your own.  You may be able to seek compensatory damages. To speak with an experienced Bella Vista spinal cord injury lawyer, call Ken Kieklak, Attorney at Law at (479) 316-0438, or contact us online.