Figures estimate that there are currently around 40,000 people in the UK living with a spinal cord injury. Such injuries are permanent and can change a person’s life – and that of their loved ones – drastically. Today is Spinal Cord Injuries Awareness Day, an annual event that aims to highlight the causes of spinal injury and raise awareness of the help available to people injured in this way.
What causes a spinal cord injury?
The majority of spinal cord injuries are caused by trauma, notably through a road traffic accident, a fall or a sporting injury. Rarely, they can also be caused through a mishandled birth, injury sustained during certain surgical procedures and through:
- Birth defects such as Spina Bifida
- Bacterial infections such as Tuberculosis
- Viral infections such as Transverse Myelitis
- Non-malignant tumours pressing on the spinal cord
- Blood clots or haemorrhaging (known as a spinal stroke)
On very rare occasions, the spinal cord may be accidentally damaged during surgery.
What does the spinal cord do?
The spinal cord comprises a network of neural pathways that, together with the brain, make up the central nervous system. It is responsible for transmitting messages to and from the brain, skin, muscles, joints and organs of the body including information about pain, movement, cell function and touch.
The effects of a spinal cord injury
If the cord is injured, these neurological messages (or impulses) are interrupted, leading to loss of function in the corresponding part of the body. This can include:
- Lack of bladder and bowel management
- Inability to control blood pressure
- Inability to regulate temperature
Unlike elsewhere in the body, cells in the spinal cord are limited in their ability to regenerate themselves. Thus, depending on where the cord is damaged and its severity, such an injury can be completely life changing, causing partial or total paralysis. Many also suffer psychologically and find extreme difficulties in coming to terms with a devastating change in their circumstances.
Someone with a spinal cord injury may also be at risk of suffering:
- Kidney failure
- Pneumonia and other respiratory complications
- Pressure sores
- Pulmonary emboli
Spinal injury and medical negligence
“Thankfully it is rare that someone sustains a spinal cord injury because of medical negligence,” says Alan Mendham, specialist solicitor at Gadsby Wicks. “However, when it does happen, the consequences are lifelong and can be devastating. It can be so hard for people to rebuild their lives after such an event, especially when it could have been avoided.”
At present, no effective treatments exist to reverse damage sustained to the spinal cord, so the emphasis is primarily on rehabilitation and help for the injured person and their family to readjust to living with the resulting disability.
If you, or someone you love, have suffered a spinal cord injury because of a mishandled birth, a delay in diagnosing an infection or a surgical accident, you may have a claim for compensation. Please contact us on 0800 321 3112 or email us here to make an enquiry.
For more information on Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day or to get involved, please click on the links below:
Posted 15th May 2015 | Posted in News,Uncategorised