Approximately 2,500 people are diagnosed with paraplegia every year in the United States. Paraplegia is caused by a traumatic spinal cord injury. A spinal cord injury is one that causes damage or trauma to the spinal cord that in turn results in a loss or impaired function resulting in reduced mobility or feeling. The resulting damage to the spinal cord is known as a lesion. The paralysis is known as paraplegia if the injury is in the thoracic, lumbar or sacral region. Many people don’t know that it is possible for someone to suffer a broken neck, or a broken back without becoming paralyzed. This occurs when there is a fracture or dislocation of the vertebrae, but the spinal cord has not been damaged.
Paraplegia due to a spinal cord injury results in an impairment in motor or sensory function of the lower half of a person’s body. Damage to the cellular structure of the spinal cord within the spinal canal causes this condition. The area of the spinal cord which is affected in paraplegia is either the thoracic, lumbar, or sacral regions of the spinal column.
Causes of Paraplegia
Damage to the spinal cord is caused by either trauma or disease. Auto accidents represent the leading cause of paraplegia in the U.S., accounting for approximately 44 % of all cases. Slip and fall accidents are also a major leading cause of paraplegia and account for 18% of all cases. Other common causes of the paraplegia include, but are not limited to:
- Motorcycle accident
- Sports injuries
- Transverse Myelitis
- Spina Bifida
- Friedreich’s Ataxia
- Spinal cord tumor
- Spinal stenosis
- Medical malpractice/negligence
- Offshore accidents
Those who suffer from paraplegia will require lifelong medical treatment, including surgeries, medication, physical therapy, and more. The costs associated with caring for this condition are high and without insurance, these costs could bankrupt the victim of a spinal injury. The costs can be astronomical and may exceed more than one million dollars over the course of a person’s lifetime.
Medical Complications Resulting from Paraplegia
As a result of a spinal cord injury, paraplegics can be susceptible to a number of secondary medical complications. These include:
- Pressure sores
- Low blood pressure
- Autonomic dysreflexia
- Dysfunction of the bowel and bladder
- Sexual disfunction
- Male infertility
- Chronic nerve pain in the areas surrounding the point of injury
- Severe depression