How medical professionals classify spinal cord injuries

The force of a car crash can produce a range of serious, possibly life-altering injuries. People can lose body parts due to traumatic amputation. They can suffer brain injuries. They might also incur spinal cord injuries in collisions.

Spinal cord injuries are among the most-feared conditions people can develop after a car crash. It is common for those who lose sensation or motor function to catastrophize their situation. They may then have a hard time making sense of what doctors tell them about their prognosis.

The jargon used to describe spinal cord injuries may confuse people unfamiliar with medical terminology. How do medical professionals classify spinal cord injuries?

By their severity

One of the most important considerations when estimating the effect that a spinal cord injury could have on someone’s life is the extent of the injury. Some people have incomplete spinal cord injuries. The force of the crash pinches, cuts or tears the spinal cord, but it does not actually sever the spinal cord. In such scenarios, partial medical recovery is sometimes possible with adequate treatment.

The same is not currently true of complete spinal cord injuries. When trauma fully severs the connection between the brain and the lower body, medical treatment cannot restore motor function or sensation at this time. Those with complete injuries often experience more medical impairment and more expenses caused by their injuries.

By the location of the injury

Someone’s diagnosis of a spinal cord injury doesn’t just indicate the severity of the injury. It also identifies the location of the injury. Doctors identify the vertebrae or backbone closest to the injury. If medical records include a C followed by a number, then the injury is to the cervical spine or neck. Injuries with a T1 through T12 designation affect the thoracic spine, which extends from the top of the shoulders to the middle of the back. The lumbar spine contains vertebrae L1 through L5 and makes up the curve of the lower back. The sacral spine consists of vertebrae S1 through S5 and extends down to the tailbone.

Injuries to the upper thoracic vertebrae or the cervical vertebra might lead to tetraplegia, which some people refer to as quadriplegia. Such injuries affect the use of not just the legs but also the arms. Those with injuries to the lower spine may only experience limitations involving their lower extremities. Regardless of how severe the injury is or where it falls on the spine, the medical care costs are likely to climb high into the six figures if they don’t break into seven-figure territory.

Pursuing compensation for a spinal cord injury is a reasonable choice when another’s negligence leads to such harm, given that someone may also lose out on income in addition to having major medical expenses. People who can fully understand the diagnosis they face are in a greater position to assert themselves by filing an insurance claim or taking legal action.

FindLaw Network

View All
Practice areas