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Neurological effects of spinal cord injury

A spinal cord injury generally has at least some effect on the patient’s neurological function. According to the National SCI Statistical Center, of the 17,810 new spinal cord injuries that occur every year, only 0.7% of patients experience no neurological effect.

The neurological effects depend on the type of injury. Here are the most common neurological effects.

Incomplete tetraplegia

Tetraplegia, also known as quadriplegia, is paralysis affecting all four limbs. It occurs due to a spinal cord injury in the neck. Incomplete tetraplegia means that some nerve signals are still getting through to the arms and legs and some functioning may remain. Incomplete tetraplegia occurs in 47.2% of all spinal cord injuries.

Incomplete paraplegia

Paraplegia affects only the lower body. Depending on the level of the spinal cord injury, it may affect only the legs or involve the lower abdomen as well. Between 19% and 20% of all spinal cord injuries result in incomplete paraplegia.

Complete paraplegia

Complete paraplegia occurs when there is a complete severing of the spinal cord somewhere in the thoracic or lumbar spine. This cuts off all nerve signals to the lower extremities, resulting in total paralysis. Complete paraplegia is slightly more prevalent than incomplete paraplegia, occurring in 20.2% of all spinal cord injuries.

Complete tetraplegia

Complete tetraplegia is the most serious neurological effect of a spinal cord injury. Fortunately, it is also the least common, occurring in 12.3% of all cases. Complete tetraplegia occurs when the spinal cord becomes completely severed at the level of the neck, allowing no nerve signals to travel to either the arms or the legs.