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What Are the Long Term Effects of Spinal Cord Injuries?

spinal cord injuries

Spinal cord injuries are one of the most serious injuries you can experience. And although they are sometimes associated with risky behaviors like skydiving or driving race cars, the spinal cord can be injured while doing everyday tasks.

People have suffered spinal cord injuries from tripping and falling, being the victim of assault and battery, or being struck by a car in a pedestrian walkway.

The long term complications from a spinal cord injury can be serious and permanent. If you suffer from a spinal cord injury, we know how to protect your rights and help you focus on your ongoing recovery. 

Spinal Cord Injury Definition

The spinal column comprises two main components: 33 bones called vertebrae and the spinal cord that these vertebrae protect and stabilize. 

Within the spinal cord are nerves that carry messages between the brain and the rest of the body. 

A spinal cord injury, then, is any damage to the spinal cord that causes it to no longer be able to function properly. This often involves loss of mobility or loss of feeling. Paralysis is only one form of spinal cord injury.

Incomplete Spinal Injury vs. Complete Spinal Injury

In the event of damage to your spinal cord, your healthcare providers will determine if you have experienced a complete or incomplete spinal injury.  

An incomplete injury is dangerous and has long-term implications, but it is not as severe as a complete spinal cord injury. When the injury is incomplete, your nerves can still relay sensory messages between the brain and the rest of the body. This means that you still have feeling and motion, although these can be reduced or affected. 

A complete injury results in a total disconnect between the brain and the point of injury. This leads to a lack of sensation, as well as great potential for paralysis. 

Immediate Effects of a Spinal Cord Injury

Some effects of a spinal cord injury are experienced immediately. People may experience numbness, lack of sensation, paralysis, and nervous system failure. 
The spinal cord may swell significantly at the point of injury, causing doctors to have a delayed understanding of how permanent these effects will be. Some patients will regain bodily functions that they initially lost after the injury. Unfortunately, others will not. 

Long Term Complications from a Spinal Cord Injury

In the days and weeks following the injury, it will become more evident what kind of long-term effects you may face.

In addition to quadriplegia or paraplegia, spinal cord injuries can cause:

  • Loss of control of bowel and bladder functions
  • Inability to stabilize blood pressure
  • Chronically low blood pressure
  • Body temperature regulation problems
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Heart problems
  • Chronic pain

The Long Term Costs of a Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal cord injuries cause more than just physical damage. They also leave a lifelong impact on one’s ability to work, travel, and live the life they had before the injury. 

From assistive technology to surgeries to admission into spinal cord injury long term care facilities, the care and rehabilitation costs are endless. Depending on the severity of the injury, victims may end up paying millions in healthcare costs and lost wages. 

High Tetraplegia

A high tetraplegia injury occurs between the C1 and C4 vertebrae. This category of spinal cord injury can lead to full or partial paralysis of a significant portion of the body. It can also affect your nervous system functions, including breathing, temperature regulation, and digestion. 

After this kind of injury, you will need help with day-to-day activities like bathing, toileting, eating, dressing, and moving around in your home. 

Medical costs alone for a high tetraplegia injury can exceed a million dollars in the first year. 

Low Tetraplegia

Low tetraplegia affects the spine between the C5 and C8 vertebrae. Sometimes, this kind of injury allows survivors to experience partial movement in the upper extremities, such as the shoulders, elbows, and hands. Some may also be able to walk, but likely with assistance from a mobility aid. 

Patients often need help with managing their digestive and waste systems, such as bladder and bowel care. 

Long term care for a spinal cord injury could cost $740,000 in the first year, and about $109,000 annually beyond the first year. 


Paraplegia occurs when the lower vertebrae are affected. Typically, a person with paraplegia can move their upper body, such as their arms, but has limited mobility from the waist down. Mobility aids can help, and people with paraplegia often utilize wheelchairs and other devices to maintain their mobility. 

The cost of care to treat paraplegia is likely $500,000 the first year, and then $66,000 for each following year. 

What Can Be Done After a Spinal Cord Injury?

As you work on recovering from your injury, you will benefit from the support of a personal injury attorney.

At McCoy & Sparks, we know your rights as someone suffering from a spinal injury. Whether your injury was caused by an accident, negligence, or criminal behavior, you have the right to appropriate compensation. 

If you are dealing with the long term complications of a spinal cord injury from a car accident, we’re here to help. 

Contact McCoy & Sparks–Central Kentucky’s Trusted Personal Injury Attorneys

If you experienced a spinal cord injury from an accident, our experienced team of personal injury attorneys is here to assist you. 

Spinal cord injuries are complicated, both medically and legally. We assist our clients in getting the compensation they need–and deserve–to cover expensive medical costs and lost wages. 

McCoy & Sparks is recognized as one of Central Kentucky’s best law firms. We have been operating in Central Kentucky for more than a decade, and our goal is to create an individualized legal strategy that serves your needs! 

You only pay us when we recover your compensation. Call us today at (844)-4KY-WINS to schedule a risk-free, no-commitment consultation with one of our compassionate, knowledgeable Central Kentucky attorneys.