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SCI Health Issues
Quadriplegia and Tetraplegia
The term Quadraplegic is derived from two different words from two different languages, Latin and Greek. The word “Quadra”, when translated from latin means “four”, this relates to the number of limbs. “Plegic”, is derived from the Greek word “Plegia”, which when translated, means "paralysis".
When the two words are combined together, you have “Quadraplegia”.
“Tetra” is derived from the Greek word for “Four”. “Para” is derived from the Greek word for "two" Hence: Tetraplegic and Paraplegic.
In Europe, the terminology for 4 limb paralysis has always been tetraplegia. The Europeans would never dream of combining a Latin and Greek root in one word.
Quadriplegic and Quadriplegia are the terms used mainly in America to describe paralysis of all four limbs. In 1991, when the American Spinal Cord Injury Classification system was being revised, the difference in names was discussed. The British are more aware of Greek versus Latin names. Since Plegia is a greek word and quadri is Latin, the term quadriplegia mixes language sources.
Upon review of the literature, it was recommended that the term tetraplegia be used by the American Spinal Cord Association so that there are not two different words in English referring to the same thing.
Quadriplegia or Tetraplegia is when a person has a spinal cord injury above the first thoracic vertebra (T1), paralysis usually affects the cervical spinal nerves, C1 to C8 resulting in paralysis of all four limbs. This may result in partial or complete paralysis of the arms as well as complete paralysis of the legs.
There are 7 cervical vertebrae in the neck, but 8 spinal nerves as the spinal nerves exit the spinal cord above the vertebrae.
In addition to the arms and legs being paralyzed, the abdominal and chest muscles will also be affected resulting in weakened breathing and the inability to properly cough and clear the chest. Breathing will be dependant on the diaphragm, or in severe cases, a ventilator. People with this type of paralysis are referred to as Quadriplegic or Tetraplegic.
The level of injury, otherwise known as a lesion, is the exact point in the spinal cord at which damage has occurred. Damage may take the form of scar tissue, or the cord may be compressed due to a damaged vertebrae or inter vertebral disc. The levels of spinal nerves 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, as damage to the spinal cord at these points directly determines how groups of muscles, organs and sensations will be affected.
Determining 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 a complete loss of muscle control and sensation below their level of lesion. An incomplete injury is where maybe only the muscles have been paralyzed, or where there is impaired sensation.
The functionality of a persons body following a spinal cord injury, 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. The age and weight of a person will also have a negative factor on the person's abilities.
Click the spinal levels below for a comparison of injury levels and abilities.
Support : Types of Paralysis : Vertebral Column : Spinal Cord : Myotomes & Dermatomes : Autonomic Dysreflexia : Spasticity & Spasms : Temperature Regulation : Respiratory System : Pressure Sores : Spinal Cord Injury Research