What is Spinal Cord Injury?

Spinal cord injuries (SCI) can be defined as a traumatic or non-traumatic event that results in nerve damage that affects motor, sensory and respiratory function, as well as bladder -, bowel - and sexual function. Neurological disruption also affects a person's blood pressure, skin integrity and ability to regulate temperature.

SCIs not only have an impact on the physical - and emotional well - being of individuals, but they also have a significant impact on families, communities and healthcare systems worldwide.

The literature indicates the peak age between 12 and 30 years, with an average life expectancy of 30.2 years after injury. The total prevalence for the US, Australia, Iceland and Europe is estimated at between 250 and 721 per million.

SCI usually leads to paraplegia or quadriplegia. Paraplegia is the loss of motor and / or sensory function in the lower extremities (LL) and torso. While quadriplegia involves the upper extremities (ULs) in the engine and / or the aesthetic loss of the LL and torso.

The brain and the central nervous system

The central nervous system is made up of the brain and spinal cord. The spinal cord, made of soft tissue, is surrounded by bones (vertebrae) and extends downwards (from the base of the brain), is made up of nerve cells and groups of nerves called tubes, which are directed by the central nervous system (CNS). to various parts of the body along with the peripheral nervous system (PNS).

The lower end of the spinal cord stops just above the waist, in an area called the conus medullaris. Beneath this area is a group of nerve roots called cauda horses. The main function of the spinal cord structure is to carry messages between the brain and the rest of the body. The motor tubes carry signals from

the brain to control muscle movement. The sensory pathways carry signals from body parts to the brain about heat, cold, pressure, pain, and limb position.


Spinal cord injuries can be caused by damage to the vertebrae, ligaments or discs of the spine or the spinal cord itself. A traumatic spinal cord injury can result from a sudden, traumatic blow to the spine that breaks, shifts, crushes, or compresses one or more vertebrae. It can also be caused by an injury or a knife that pierces and cuts the spinal cord. Additional damage usually occurs over days or weeks due to bleeding, swelling, inflammation, and fluid buildup in and around the spinal cord. Spinal cord injury from non-traumatic causes can be caused by arthritis, cancer, inflammation, infections or disc degeneration of the spine.

Type of Spinal Cord Injury

The severity of the injury depends on the site of injury at the level of the spine and is classified as follows:

- Complete. In the event of complete damage, all stimuli (sensors) and all ability to control movement (limb function) are lost below the level of spinal cord injury.

- Incomplete. In this case there is some motor or sensory function under the affected area and the injury is called incomplete. There are several degrees of incomplete damage.

In addition, paralysis due to spinal cord injury can be referred to as:

  • Quadriplegia. In this case, the upper and lower limbs, trunk, and pelvic organs are affected by the spinal cord injury.

  • Paraplegia. This paralysis affects all or part of the torso, legs and pelvic organs.

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