The Long-Term Effects of Spinal Cord Injuries

The Long-Term Effects of Spinal Cord InjuriesOne of the most serious injuries a person can sustain is a spinal cord injury. This type of physical trauma can result in paraplegia, an inability to move the lower part of the body, or quadriplegia, which is the inability to move the body at all. With any spinal cord injury, even if the patient recovers some movement after rehabilitation and therapy, they can still have long-term medical and psychological issues to deal with for the rest of their lives.

When you’re dealing with a lawsuit regarding a spinal cord injury, it’s important everyone involved understands not only the nature of the injury, but also the long-term effects. The majority of spinal cord injuries can result in lifelong financial and physical issues, and these should be taken into consideration if you’re thinking about filing a case. People with spinal cord injuries are often eligible for higher settlements, as their injuries are considered more catastrophic than others.

Spinal cord injuries (SCIs) can happen from many types of accidents, including car accidents, slip and falls, construction accidents, or accidents at work.

What are the different types of spinal cord injuries?

Typically, with spinal cord trauma, the physical effects depend on where on the spinal cord the injury occurred. The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC) provides the following facts and figures about traumatic spinal cord injuries.

High Tetraplegia

Injuries to the C1 to C4 vertebrae impair the ability to feel or move from the neck down. This is also known as total body paralysis. An injury like this typically requires the patient to need assistance for breathing, bladder, and bowel function. Patients with high tetraplegia also need help with day-to-day living activities. Lifetime financial expenses each year for these types of injuries average $178,000 after an initial $1,000,000 for the first year. And, keep in mind that when we talk about financial expenses, we’re not including lost wages or productivity.

Low Tetraplegia

People with injuries to the C5 to C8 vertebrae can have partial movement in the shoulder, elbow, or hands. They may be able to breathe unassisted, but could need assistance with bladder and bowel care. The patients may still be unable to walk. Financial annual expenses for a lifetime of care for this injury can begin around $740,000 the first year and level out at around $109,000 each year after that.


Trauma to the thoracic or lumbar vertebrae are what we commonly call paraplegia. With these injuries, upper extremity movement is typically unaffected, but impairment is below the waist. Some patients are able to walk short distances with assistive devices, like a walker. Financial expenses are usually about $500,000 for the first year and $66,000 for each year after.

Incomplete motor function at any level can have lasting and damaging financial results—more than $300,000 for the first year and over $40,000 for each year following.

What are the long-term effects of spinal cord injuries?

There are other long-term health effects people with spinal cord injuries need to be concerned about. Patients can suffer from things like bladder infections or kidney stones. Osteoporosis is another worry. Doctors also warn about muscle spasticity and syringomyelia, a numbness and weakness in the extremities, a common side effect in spinal cord injury patients.

If you suffer a serious back or spinal cord injury due to someone else’s reckless behavior, the Oklahoma City personal injury attorneys at Cunningham & Mears can help. We work tirelessly to ensure you’re provided the compensation you deserve for your injuries and suffering. To schedule a free consultation at our offices, please call our Oklahoma City office at (405) 232-1212 or fill out our contact form.

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