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The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimate that approximately 250,000- 500,000 people suffer from a spinal cord injury each year.
Here, medical negligence solicitors Blackwater Law discuss spinal cord injuries in more detail.
What is the spinal cord?
The spinal cord is responsible for carrying messages to the brain and other parts of the body and is a major group of nerves surrounded by the spinal column. It contains nerve cells and nerve fibres that carry the signals to and from the brain.
Signals from other parts of the body also pass up the spinal cord carrying sensory information (such as touch, pressure and heat) to the relevant area of the brain that deals with these.
A spinal cord injury is therefore damage that alters the function of the spinal cord and can either be temporary or permanent.
Injuries to the spinal cord can be classified as complete – whereby there has been a total loss of muscle function and sensation, or incomplete – in instances where some nerve signals are able to travel past the injured section of the spinal cord.
What causes a spinal cord injury?
Spinal cord injuries arise predominately through a direct trauma to the area, through car accidents or a sport injury for example. However, spinal injuries can also arise from diseases and illnesses such as polio or spina bifida. Other conditions such as arthritis can also lead to spinal cord injuries should the spine have become weak through arthritis and a trauma subsequently occurs near the spine.
Treatment for a spinal cord injury:
Treatment for a spinal injury will vary depending on the extent of the injury, but is likely to require long-term assistance, meaning that where appropriate a spinal injury claim may help to provide the financial assistance required with such a life-changing injury.
There is currently no known way of reversing the damage to the spinal cord so treatment will centre on preventing further damage to the area as well as rehabilitation exercises including physical therapy to strengthen muscles and occupational therapy to help fine motor skills. In addition, it may be necessary to look at adaptive devices to help with communication and movement including assistive devices such as wheelchairs or leg braces.
It is also important to bear in mind that those suffering from a spinal cord injury are more susceptible to developing secondary conditions such as pressure ulcers, chronic pain or even complications with the respiratory system therefore highlighting the importance of thorough long-term medical care with an understanding of the increased risks that those suffering from spinal cord injuries face. In instances where negligent care has resulted in the increased suffering it may be appropriate to pursue a hospital negligence claim as part of a wider medical negligence claim.