A spinal cord injury can be severe enough to cause paralysis in the victim. The extent of the paralysis will depend on the type of spinal cord injury, its severity, and its location along the spinal cord. Two of the worst forms of paralysis are paraplegia and quadriplegia, which can also be called tetraplegia.
How are these two forms of paralysis different? And how are they similar? The answers can drastically influence a catastrophic injury claim, especially when considering the damages owed to the claimant.
What is Paraplegia?
When the spinal cord is injured in the thoracic region, which is denoted by T-discs, the result can be paraplegia or the paralysis of both legs and the lower abdomen. The paralysis can manifest as a slight loss of muscular and abdominal control in mild cases, but it can be as severe as a total loss of control. Paralysis can also be temporary or permanent, based on the injury.
It is not uncommon for someone with paraplegia to also experience organ dysfunctions. For example, the bladder and the bowel are both organs located in the lower body. A paraplegic patient will often require specialized medical care and instruments to allow for regular bodily movements.
Body temperature and blood pressure regulation in the lower body can also be compromised by paraplegia. The patient may experience chronic pain above the paralysis site or “level” due to blood pressure irregularities. Profuse sweating below the paralysis level is also not uncommon.
What is Quadriplegia?
When the spinal cord is injured in the cervical region, which is denoted by C-discs, the result can be quadriplegia or paralysis of all four limbs. As with paraplegia, quadriplegia can vary in severity, which means a quadriplegic patient could be partially/totally or temporarily/permanently paralyzed. However, the majority of quadriplegia cases are severe and involve total permanent paralysis of both arms and both legs.
Quadriplegia or tetraplegia can be life-threatening if the cervical spine injury has diaphragm paralysis. The diaphragm is the muscle that assists in breathing by allowing the lungs to inflate and deflate with air. If quadriplegia is accompanied by diaphragm paralysis, then the patient will likely need to be placed on a mechanical ventilator for the rest of their lives.
Furthermore, a spinal cord injury that causes quadriplegia can also affect internal organs in the chest cavity. Again, paralysis of these organs can be extremely dangerous and lead to organ failures and other complications. The extent of organ paralysis in both paraplegic and quadriplegic patients is usually the factor that most significantly impacts their life expectancy.
Why the Differences Matter
It is important to differentiate between paraplegia and quadriplegia when working on a catastrophic injury claim because the two forms of paralysis call for noticeably different lifestyle changes and medical care. For example, a paraplegic person may be able to regain muscle strength through physical therapy and find themselves beginning their career after months or years in recovery. But someone with quadriplegia could be wheelchair-bound and require day-to-day, minute-to-minute living assistance. To this end, the damages owed to people who are paraplegic could be much less compared to someone who is quadriplegic.
Carefully calculating those damages requires a full understanding of the patient’s medical record, including prognoses from leading medical experts like neurologists. An attorney’s assistance and representation can be a simple way to calculate those damages and prepare an injury claim without putting any more stress on the injured person and their family.
Todd Miner Law offers legal representation to catastrophically injured claimants in Orlando, Florida. If you or a loved one have suffered a paralyzing injury after an accident caused by a negligent third party, call (407) 269-5877 right away to arrange an initial consultation with our firm.