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SCI Health Issues
Types of Paralysis - Quadriplegia (Tetraplegia) and Paraplegia
Types of Spinal Cord Injury Sections
When a person suffers a spinal cord injury, information travelling along the spinal nerves below the level of injury will be either completely or partially cut off from the brain, resulting in Quadriplegia (Tetraplegia) or Paraplegia.
The body will still be trying to send messages from below the level of injury to the brain known as sensory messages, and the brain will still be trying to send messages downwards to the muscles in the body, known as motor messages. These messages however, will be blocked by the damage in the spinal cord at the level of injury. Nerves joining the spinal cord above the level of injury will be unaffected and continue to work as normal.
Quadriplegia / Tetraplegia: is when a person has a spinal cord injury above the first thoracic vertebra, paralysis usually affects the cervical spinal nerves resulting in paralysis of all four limbs. In addition to the arms and legs being paralysed, the abdominal and chest muscles will also be affected resulting in weakened breathing and the inability to properly cough and clear the chest. People with this type of paralysis are referred to as Quadriplegic or Tetraplegic. The term Quadraplegic or Quadraplegia may also sometimes be used, mainly in the UK.
Paraplegia: is when the level of spinal cord injury occurs below the first thoracic spinal nerve. The degree at which the person is paralysed can vary from the impairment of leg movement, to complete paralysis of the legs and abdomen up to the nipple line. Paraplegics have full use of their arms and hands.
Cauda Equina Syndrome: The Cauda Equina is the mass of nerves which fan out of the spinal cord at between the first and second Lumbar region of the spine. The spinal cord ends at L1 and L2 at which point a bundle of nerves travel downwards through the Lumbar and Sacral vertebrae. Injury to these nerves will cause partial or complete loss of movement and sensation. It is possible, if the nerves are not too badly damaged, for them to grow again and for the recovery of function. The resultant paralysis results in paraplegia, but this is known as a Cauda Equina Syndrome injury.
The spinal cord injury level, otherwise known as a lesion, is the exact point in the spinal cord segment at which damage has occurred. The levels are determined by counting the nerves from the top of the spine downwards, and these nerves are grouped into four different areas. These are the Cervical, Thoracic, Lumbar and Sacral parts of the spinal cord.
These areas are important in defining quadriplegia and paraplegia, as damage to the spinal cord as these points directly determines how groups of muscles, organs and sensations will be affected.
How the spinal cord has been damage is also a consideration when evaluating a spinal cord injury. There are two types of lesion, these are a complete injury and an incomplete injury. Someone with a complete injury will have complete loss of muscle control and sensation below their level of lesion. An incomplete injury is where maybe only the muscles have been paralysed, or where there is impaired sensation.
The degree to which a persons body will work following a spinal cord injury resulting in quadriplegia or paraplegia will depend on the level of injury, and whether the injury was complete of incomplete. In order to show what functionality will be possible following a complete spinal cord injury, we have put together the most common abilities for varying degree's of paralysis.
Click the spinal cord injury levels below for a comparison of complete injury levels and abilities
These abilities are not definitive, and slight variations may be present due to body weight, existing medical issues and post injury ageing.
Support : Types of Paralysis : Vertebral Column : Spinal Cord : Myotomes & Dermatomes : Autonomic Dysreflexia : Spasticity & Spasms : Temperature Regulation : Respiratory System : Pressure Sores : Spinal Cord Injury Research