What Are the Levels of Spinal Cord Injury?At Silverman, McDonald & Friedman, our attorneys represent clients who have suffered spinal cord injuries in accidents throughout Delaware. We help people like you recover compensation after another person’s or entity’s negligence caused you harm. To learn more, schedule an appointment in our Wilmington, Newark or Seaford offices.

Our spinal cords are the information superhighways of our bodies. The job of the spinal cord is crucial, as it carries messages back and forth from the brain, telling the body when and how to function. When the spinal cord is injured, no matter how minor the trauma, the injury should not be taken lightly. In fact, when most of us hear the words “spinal injury,” our first thought is typically the worst-case scenario of a person with total paralysis in a wheelchair.

Of course, not all spinal injuries are this extreme. There are many levels of spinal cord injury (SCI), each with a wide range of symptoms and outcomes.

SCIs – types and levels

Spinal cord injuries are first classified into types, and then into levels.

The two types of SCIs are complete and incomplete. A complete injury means there is no function below the site of the injury. A patient who has a complete spinal cord injury has no movement or sensation below the injury, and both sides of the body are affected equally.

An incomplete injury means there is some function below the site of the injury. The patient may have some feeling in certain parts of the body, or has some movement in one limb more than the other, or has more function on one side of the body.

The levels of SCIs are more complex, as they relate to areas up and down the spinal cord. Typically, though, the higher on the spinal cord the injury occurs, the more traumatic the injury. Injury levels correspond with the levels of the spine—in descending order these are cervical (C), thoracic (T), and lumbar (L). Following are levels of injuries with their typical corresponding symptoms (keeping in mind that every patient is different):

  • C2 to C3 injuries: These injuries cut off breathing function and are usually fatal
  • C4: Require a ventilator for breathing and typically result in quadriplegia (paralysis of both the arms and legs)
  • C5: Quadriplegia, but with some shoulder and elbow function
  • C6: Quadriplegia, with some shoulder, elbow, and wrist function
  • C7: Quadriplegia, with some shoulder, elbow, wrist, and hand function
  • C8: Quadriplegia, with arm function and hand weakness
  • T1–T6: Paraplegia (paralysis of the legs and lower body) with full function of arms but loss of function below mid-chest
  • T6–T12: Paraplegia with control of torso, but loss of function below waist
  • L1–L5: Paraplegia with varying control of muscles in the legs

Other spinal cord injury symptoms can include loss of bladder control, chronic pain, muscle spasticity, breathing problems, sexual dysfunction, heart/blood pressure issues, or digestive problems.

More than 1.2 million Americans live with paralysis from an SCI, and more than half of those injuries are in the cervical region of the spinal cord. The most common causes of SCIs are sports injuries, car accidents, falls, and violence.

Catastrophic spinal cord injuries require continuous, lifelong treatment. They can put tremendous emotional and financial strain on your life. If your injury was caused by someone else’s negligence, the personal injury attorneys at Silverman, McDonald & Friedman will fight for your right to compensation. Our legal team serves clients in the Wilmington, Seaford, and Newark areas. Call 302-888-2900 or fill out our contact form today.

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