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Frequently asked questions
Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about spinal injuries and their classification.
The goal is to start the rehabilitation and recovery programme as soon as possible so it would be best to diagnose a spinal injury within 72 hours after it has been inflicted. A system of tests defines the level of the injury on the spine. These tests are focused on motor function and the level of feeling that a patient can feel in various areas of the body.
Generally, paraplegia is an impairment in motor or sensory function of the lower extremities while tetraplegia is paralysis caused by illness or injury that results in a partial or total loss of use of all four limbs and torso.
“Complete” spinal cord injuries refer to any injury that results in the complete loss of function below the point of injury when a voluntary control of movements and sensory integration is not possible. “Incomplete” spinal-cord injuries, on the other hand, refer to a spinal cord injury in which some feeling or movement is still evident below the point of injury. Since such a sensory and motor function varies from person to person, various symptoms are also possible. This is why there are various rehabilitation and recovery programs.
After a period of time, when some swelling of the injured spinal-cord has subsided, it is possible for some functions to be recovered, especially if a spinal-cord injury is incomplete – usually within 18 months from the injury. A permanent full recovery does not happen often. However, thanks to rehabilitation programmes and scientific findings, a lot can be done at least to decrease the negative impact of an injury. It is important to bear in mind that regardless of the same diagnosis, prognosis, the recovery process and results of rehabilitation programmes differ from person to person.
Until the middle of the 20th century, the majority of people with a spinal-cord injury would die from complications related to urinary and respiratory infections and pressure wounds several weeks after the traumatic event. Today, thanks to antibiotics, medical aids and all new scientific findings and modern patient-care, many of them have a normal life expectancy if they receive an appropriate treatment within 24 hours of the initial injury.
So far, a cure for this type of injury has not been found. Scientific studies focused on treating spinal-cord injuries are concentrated on initiating growth of new nerves (since the existing ones below the level of the injury are damaged or destroyed). The studies are also focused on planting new cells that would act as a bridge between the damaged and healthy body parts in order to recover lost sensory and motor functions.
A level of independence, as well as a need for medical aids and assistance, depend on the level of a spinal-cord injury, as well as on the person. Personal hygiene, assistance at home, transport/mobility, special medical care, sports and parenting are aspects of living that person with a spinal-cord injury and his her family members should take into consideration in order to provide the best possible help and care. Medical doctors and medical staff will be there for you to help you as much as possible, but it is advisable to join specialized associations and other support groups that provide assistance during the adjustment period.