Types of Spinal Cord Injury - Complete or Incomplete

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Understanding the severity of a spinal cord injury

If you or someone close to you has suffered a spinal injury in an incident caused by third party negligence – for example, a work accident, a road traffic accident or incident of medical negligence – you may be entitled to claim spinal injury compensation for your pain, suffering, expenses and loss of earnings.

Thompsons personal injury solicitors in Scotland are specialists in both complete and incomplete spinal cord injury claims. If you would like to consider making a claim with us, Talk to Thompsons today for authoritative legal advice and sensitive personal support to help you achieve the justice and compensation you deserve.

Complete or incomplete?

Spinal cord injuries fall into one of two main categories: complete or incomplete.

However, because of the inflammatory responses involved in the aftermath of injury, it can be difficult to immediately determine which type has been suffered. In some cases it may take up to two months before inflammation sufficiently subsides for an accurate diagnosis to be made.

Complete spinal cord injury

A complete spinal cord injury is one in which the trauma of an accident has been forceful enough to cause injury across the entire width of the spinal cord – hence the term "complete". These types of spinal cord injury are the most severe as they are likely to result in total and permanent loss of function and sensation below the level of the injured spinal cord and vertebrae.

Yet, even if the injury is diagnosed as complete there is still some scope for differences in prognosis. For example, whether a patient suffers complete paraplegia or complete tetraplegia depends on the location of the injury. In the case of paraplegia, the condition will be because of a complete thoracic spinal cord injury, complete lumbar spinal cord injury or complete sacral spinal cord injury.

In the case of tetraplegia, the condition is caused by injury to the cervical spine (in the region of the neck) and involves the most serious loss of function – for example, loss of function and sensation in the arms, legs and upper body as well as loss of bladder and bowel function. As with all spinal cord injuries, the higher up the spine the injury occurs, the more severe the impairment is likely to be.

Incomplete spinal cord injury

Incomplete spinal cord injuries are less serious but more common than complete spinal cord injuries. They are referred to as "incomplete" as they do not involve damage across the entire width of the spinal cord, instead leaving at least a small section of spinal cord tract intact.

As a consequence, parties with an incomplete spinal cord injury retain some level of function and sensation and may experience some or considerable improvement in prognosis and symptoms over periods of time.

An injured individual's prognosis will vary depending on many factors, including their age and general pre-accident health and whether the injury is located in the cervical, thoracic, lumbar or sacral spine:

Another factor that may significantly influence prognosis is where the injury is situated across the width of the spinal cord:

  • Anterior cord syndrome: Injury to the front of the spinal cord.
  • Central cord syndrome: Injury to the centre of the spinal cord.
  • Posterior cord syndrome: Injury to the back of the spinal cord.
  • Brown-Sequard syndrome: Injury to one side of the spinal cord.
  • Cauda equina syndrome: Injury to the bundle of nerves at the base of the spine.

Talk to Thompsons - Spinal Cord Injury Solicitors

If you or someone close to you has suffered a complete or incomplete spinal cord injury, the specialist solicitors at Thompsons can help you make a claim to help ease the practical and financial consequences. This may include compensation for the following:

  • Home and car adaptations
  • Lost earnings
  • Expenses
  • Transport
  • Medical equipment
  • Healthcare, including private rehabilitation and therapy

Contact Thompsons team of spinal injury solicitors today to see if we could help you ensure compensation. Call us on 0800 0891 331 or fill in our contact form so we can discuss your options.

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