What is the Difference Between a Complete or Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury?

Spinal cord trauma can be devastating. However, what many people do not realize is that there are various levels of spinal cord injuries. Here, we specifically want to address the difference between a “complete” spinal cord injury and an “incomplete” spinal cord injury. We will look at what the person can expect both in the short- and long-term with both of these types of spinal cord traumas and why it’s important to consult with a Chicago spinal cord injury lawyer.

What is the Difference Between a Complete or Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury

Understanding the Levels of Spinal Cord Injuries

There is a distinct difference between complete and incomplete spinal cord injuries. The overall effects of a spinal cord injury on a victim will depend greatly on where the injury occurs as well as the initial severity of the damage to the spinal cord. It is important for us to point out that no two injuries are exactly alike, and every case has to be examined independently to determine how a person will be affected.

Complete Spinal Cord Injuries

Complete spinal cord injuries occur anytime a person’s spine is completely compressed or severed. This type of injury will almost always eliminate the ability of the brain to send signals to any area below the actual site of the injury. For example, if a person experiences a complete spinal cord injury in the middle of their spine, the brain will not be able to send signals from the site of the injury down to the lower areas of the body. This can lead to paralysis of the lower limbs as well as inhibit the functioning of major bodily organs. This type of injury can also cause a loss of bowel or bladder control.

Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries

Incomplete spinal cord injuries refer to any type of injury that occurs to the spine where a person can retain functioning or feeling below the site of the injury. However, even though a person may retain some functioning or feeling below the injury site, the overall effects of this type of spinal cord trauma can vary widely. In some cases, an incomplete spinal cord injury case will be mild enough to where the person experiences some weakness and maybe no other signs of injury. However, incomplete spinal cord injuries can be severe enough to where a person will have symptoms similar to a complete spinal cord injury.

The Costs Associated With Complete and Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries

One of the major differences between a complete and incomplete spinal cord injury, aside from the signs and symptoms, revolves around the cost of these injuries. Data available from the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC) shows that the first year of medical care for a spinal cord injury can range anywhere from approximately $379,000 to more than $1 million, depending on the level of injury that has occurred. For example, those who retain some level of motor functioning typically see fewer medical expenses during the first year than a person who sustains a complete spinal cord injury along the cervical vertebrae.

However, when examining the true costs of a complete or incomplete spinal cord injury, we have to look beyond that first year of medical care. Every additional year of medical care can range anywhere from around $47,000 to more than $200,000, again depending on the level of trauma.

Spinal cord injury victims also have to adjust their lives to a new day-to-day living situation. Those who have sustained more severe injuries may need significant in-home or around-the-clock care for the rest of their lives.