How Does a Spinal Cord Injury Affect the Body?

Serious personal injury accidents such as a car, truck, and motorcycle accidents often generate severe spinal cord injuries. Spinal cord injuries affect organs and tissues of the body which include bladder, bowel, lungs, heart, blood vessels, sex organs, clotting, muscle tone, and reflex arcs. Make sure to contact a personal injury law firm as soon as possible to see if you qualify for a personal injury settlement.

If your accident was caused by the carelessness of another person, contact the Ohio-based Chester Law Group today to speak with their lawyers. The personal injury attorneys at Chester Law Group will assist you with what you need to do to protect your rights. Call 800-218-4243 now.

Chances are if you’ve been in a catastrophic motor vehicle accident such as a motorcycle accident you will have some sort of spinal cord injury. You will most likely experience medical problems that involve bladder complications, bowel dysfunction, and sexual dysfunction with susceptibility to heart and lung problems. How well you are able to recover depends on how these problems are handled initially.

Listed below are common areas of the body affected by spinal cord injuries and the dysfunctions that occur.

  • Breathing problems – If you have an injury to your spinal column above cervical vertebrae 6 (C6), it is possible that you won’t be able to breathe. The phrenic nerves exit here and innervate your diaphragm. These nerves carry signals that cause the diaphragm muscles to contract which allows you to inhale. Relaxation of these muscles allows you to exhale. This type of injury requires ventilation support. If your injury is below cervical vertebrae 5 (C5), you will be able to breathe but your breathing will be rapid and shallow.
  • Pneumonia – The primary lung complication is pneumonia and is a leading cause of death with spinal injuries in the upper cervical region. This is because a tube is placed down your throat for ventilation which increases your chances of infection. Patients who have a tube inserted in their throat need to be monitored for infections and if necessary, treated with antibiotics.
  • Low Blood Pressure and Irregular Heartbeat – Cervical spine injuries also generate low blood pressure and heart arrhythmias. The cardiac nerves exit in this area that innervates the heart. Your heart can beat rapidly and irregularly or slowly. Heart complications appear within the first two weeks after injury. Blood pressure can drop drastically. This happens because your arterial blood vessels widen due to a lack of tone because the nerves that innervate them are damaged. This takes blood away from your heart. Intravenous fluids are used to treat this condition to try to maintain blood pressure.
  • Blood Clot Formation – Spinal cord injuries increase the risk of clot formation by three times and this usually occurs after 72 hours. If needed, anticoagulants are administered as a preventive measure.
  • Spasms – Since the spinal column is injured, reflex muscle movements are not well regulated and can become exaggerated. Spasms occur on your skeletal muscle. This increases muscle tone in your limbs making them somewhat rigid because you have lost central nervous system input from your brain which normally inhibits this reflex. You have lost fine control. This is not necessarily a problem unless it becomes excessive. This can assist muscle function that you have lost in terms of willful control from your brain preventing muscle wasting when confined to a bed.
  • Peripheral Nervous System Dysfunction – Autonomic dysreflexia (over-reactive reflexes) unlike spasms affects blood vessels and organs, not skeletal muscle. You have sensory fibers that carry information to the spinal cord and motor fibers that send information back to the corresponding tissue or organ. This is known as a reflex arc.

This reflex arc becomes autonomous when it loses connections with the brain. This is usually life-threatening and occurs with injuries to the neck and/or upper back portion of your spine. This is a reflex action that happens when you have a stimulus, irritation, or pain to the nervous system below the level of your injury. The irritated area tries to send a signal to your brain, but the signal doesn’t make it. A local reflex arc response is initiated without the brain controlling it. This is very dangerous.

Anything that causes pain or irritation can set off this reflex such as the urge to urinate, defecate, cuts, bruises, or tight clothing for example. Suppose say you feel like you need to urinate. This reflex arc can initiate high blood pressure and rapid heart rate and if not controlled can generate stroke, seizure, or death. Symptoms that arise with this arc include sweating, flushing, severe headache, anxiety, and goosebumps. Whatever is activating a reflex arc needs to be remedied quickly.

  • Bowel and Bladder Dysfunction – In general, most spinal cord injuries affect bowel and bladder function. The nerves that control these functions are in the lower portion of the spinal cord and are often damaged in an accident. This cuts off brain control of these organs. Your bladder may empty suddenly or become over-full. If the urine isn’t released, it will back up into the kidneys. The patient may require catheterization. A similar problem occurs with the bowel and requires a bowel program for proper elimination.
  • Sexual and Reproductive Dysfunction – This is generally a problem for males. Depending on exactly where the spinal cord damage is, men might experience erectile dysfunction (ED), ejaculation problems, and/or fertility problems.

New advances in medical technologies allow physicians to predict with good accuracy the long-term outcome of spinal injuries. When a patient has survived their injury and can cope emotionally with their particular situation, the next thing on the agenda is to learn how to live with their disabilities.

If you’ve been in a car, truck, or motorcycle accident and your brain/spinal injury was caused by the carelessness of another person, you may be entitled to financial compensation for pain and suffering, medical bills, and lost wages. These types of accidents often involve long-term medical care and loss of your ability to earn wages in the future. Contact one of our experienced personal injury lawyers at Chester Law Group today. We are a personal injury law firm experienced in car, truck and motorcycle accidents involving spinal/brain injury. We will help guide you through your personal injury settlement.