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Types of Paralysis after a Car Accident & Managing the Condition


Although most people walk away from a car accident, some suffer serious injury, a portion of which may cause paralysis. The extent of paralysis depends on the level of injury on the spinal cord and severity of damage.

Paralysis following a car accident may be complete or incomplete. When complete, there is no motor functioning or sensation below the site of the injury. If incomplete, there may be some motor functioning or sensation below the injury level. Some patients may recover sensation and movement to varying degrees. There are also many treatments available that can help improve functionality and quality of life.

An Overview of Paraplegia

When the level of the injury occurs below the first thoracic spinal nerve in the area of the rib cage, paralysis may occur from that point down. The areas usually affected are the abdomen and legs.

Because the abdomen and legs are affected, there is likely to be dysfunction with the:

  • Bladder
  • Bowels
  • Sexual dysfunction

However, the individual has full use of his/her shoulders, arms and hands.

An Overview of Quadriplegia

When the level of the injury occurs above the first thoracic spinal nerve and anywhere up to the neck, you could experience the effects in your:

  • Arms
  • Trunk
  • Legs

With quadriplegia not only is there bladder, bowel and sexual dysfunction, it may also impact the respiratory system.

Again, whether someone has paraplegia or quadriplegia, his or her ability to function depends on the exact location of the injury and whether paralysis is incomplete or complete. This will not only determine one’s prognosis but the type of treatment as well.

Types of Treatment for Paralysis

Some patients may recover sensation and the ability to move below the site of injury. However, many patients require various assistive devices and treatments to manage the condition and any complications that arise.

For instance, doctors may prescribe medication for bladder dysfunction. Catheterization and/or surgery are other options. There are several surgical techniques available.

Another secondary condition associated with a spinal cord injury are blood clots – in particular, deep vein thrombosis (DVT). To prevent them, doctors may prescribe blood thinners. These are typically given shortly after sustaining the injury and for a limited number of weeks. Sometimes patients regularly wear compression stockings if at continued risk of DVT.

For those with respiratory issues, a ventilator can help them breathe and remove secretions. The type used depends on whether it’s needed some of the time or constantly. Some may require a tracheostomy where a tube is placed into the individual’s trachea.

Some may suffer psychological injuries along with the physical effects of paralysis. Depression is common in patients with paralysis, so treatment may be necessary. Antidepressants, support groups and professional counseling may help.

Treatment could also be available for the spinal cord injury itself. Surgeons may use a variety of surgical techniques to treat nerve damage.

Rehabilitation is generally part of a patient’s treatment plan and it may include a team of professionals such as:

  • Physiatrists
  • Rehab nurses
  • Counselors
  • Therapists (physical, occupational, vocational and recreational)

Exercise is another component to rehabilitation. It can help improve function and teach patients how to use a wheelchair. There could also be equipment available that stimulates the muscles or improves breathing. The types of therapies are dependent on the patient’s specific needs.

Paying for an Accident Victim’s Treatment

Costs to care for a paralyzed patient can be substantial. This includes medical and rehabilitation bills and in-home care, not to mention lost earning capacity. Hensley Legal Group helps accident victims explore and pursue avenues of compensation. See our free Consumer’s Guide for Injured Victims. You can also give us a call at (317) 472-3333.