Nearly 450,000 people in the United States live with severe spinal cord injuries and almost 10,000 people suffer from serious spinal cord injuries each year. Generally, a spinal cord injury is an injury of the spinal cord that results in loss of body functionality (i.e., mobility or feeling).
Complete vs. Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries
When a person suffers a spinal cord injury, it may be classified as either complete or incomplete.
The characteristics of a complete spinal cord injury are the following:
- Complete paralysis below the level of the injury
- May result in no feeling or movement in the legs, bowel and bladder
- May result in no feeling or movement in the arms and hands
- May require a ventilator for breathing
The characteristics of an incomplete spinal cord injury are the following:
- An injury that does not eliminate all feeling and movement below the damaged area
- The degree of injury is usually evaluated six to eight weeks after the onset of the injury
Incomplete spinal cord injuries are generally more common than complete spinal cord injuries.
Common Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries can occur in a number of different ways. However, the majority of injuries are caused by:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Sports and recreational activities
Minor Trauma Can Damage Your Spinal Cord
A spinal cord injury occurs when delicate nerve tracts that run up and down the spine are damaged. Depending on the severity of the injury and the location of the spine it affects, a spinal cord injury can cause effects ranging from paralysis, weakness, numbness, difficulty breathing, loss of normal bowel and bladder control, spasticity, abnormal blood pressure, difficulty regulating temperature, and others.
Most importantly, most spinal cord injuries cannot be fully repaired. Recovery consists of learning how to live with an injury through physical therapy and other coping mechanisms. In addition, patients who have suffered a spinal cord injury are at higher risk for developing related health problems such as lung infections, bladder infections and bedsores.
When a physician or anesthesiologist needs to operate or involve the area surrounding the spinal cord in treatment, they have a responsibility to report the risks of the procedure to their patient and offer reasonable options. This is because, in these high-risk procedures, unfortunate accidents sometimes occur.
Recently Approved Spinal Cord Therapy May Lead To Cure For Injuries
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved a clinical trial to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of the transplantation of human Schwann cells in the treatment of those with spinal cord injuries. Researchers believe that this research could possibly lead to a cure for paralysis.
Schwann cells are found in the body’s peripheral nervous system and play an important role in conducting nerve impulses along axons and nerve development and regeneration, among other things. The initial step of the approved FDA trial involves the injection of eight patients suffering from severe spinal cord injuries with their own Schwann cells. Doctors hope that this therapy will lead to the restoration of sensation and function in the patients’ limbs.
This approach has yielded results with mice, pigs and primates, but researchers have yet to determine whether it will be successful in humans. Even if the therapy is only partially successful, it has the potential to change the lives of those suffering from spinal cord injuries.
Chinese Herbal Medicine Reduces Spinal Cord Cell Death
A new study has found that the Chinese herbal medicine practice called Ji-Sui-Kang may reduce cell death and inflammation while improving locomotor functions following a spinal cord injury. Though the treatment was administered to rats whose spinal cords had been damaged, this could turn into an important treatment option for individuals in Ohio who have spinal cord injuries caused by medical malpractice. Although it is far more common for a spinal cord injury to be caused by a car accident or a fall, when medical negligence is the cause of the injury, a patient can file a medical malpractice lawsuit.
This Chinese herbal treatment is currently sold in Chinese medicine shops, but there needs to be more research done before scientists can safely say that the treatment will have healing effects on human spinal cord injuries.
Researchers administered the treatment to rats for 21 days following the injury. When compared with rats that only received a saline solution, those rats receiving the treatment had much greater use of their limbs past the point of injury. The first sign of significant improvement was within the first seven days of the treatment.
Not only were the rats who received the treatment showing signs of improvement, but the size of the injury was also greatly reduced. An examination of the spinal cord itself showed that it was also better preserved.
Right now, however, this treatment has only been studied in rats. Until greater information is available, patients with spinal cord injuries may still wish to file medical malpractice lawsuits against the medical professionals responsible for their injuries. If you have suffered a spinal cord injury due to another person’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can assess your case and help you get the compensation you deserve. For more information, contact a lawyer today.