Complications Arising from Paralysis Due to Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)
Paralysis, whether it is tetraplegia or paraplegia, can lead to a variety of complications, including some that affect your various organs. This may require additional expensive medical treatment and ongoing care, and in addition to the physical pain, may take a toll on you mentally, emotionally, and financially.
If you or a loved one were paralyzed due to a spinal cord injury (SCI) caused by someone else’s negligence, it is important that the responsible person or entity be held accountable. You will spend the rest of your life paying for their negligence – it is only fair that they cover the cost of your medical treatment and care. The Los Angeles spinal injury lawyers at McNicholas & McNicholas, LLP have extensive experience fighting on behalf of catastrophic personal injury victims, particularly those suffering from spinal cord injuries and paralysis. They can help.
What are the types of paralysis?
There are multiple types of paralysis that describe which parts of the body are paralyzed and to what extent. The two types of paralysis often caused by spinal cord injuries suffered in serious accidents such as car accidents are: tetraplegia and paraplegia. Tetraplegia is sometimes referred to as quadriplegia and is a form of paralysis that affects all four limbs and the torso, including the arms, hands, trunk, legs, and pelvic organs. In contrast, paraplegia affects all or part of a person’s trunk, legs, and pelvic organs.
What organs can be affected by paralysis?
Paralysis affects more than a person’s limbs and torso. In fact, a serious spinal cord injury can affect many organs, including, but not limited to:
- A spinal cord injury that results in paralysis disrupts the body’s ability to send signals back and forth. This includes signals regarding the fullness of the bladder. As a result, a person who is paralyzed will be unable to control their bladder function. Paralysis can also cause other bladder-related complications, such as:
- Urinary Tract Infections. When urine stays in the body for too long, bacteria can form in the urine and cause a urinary tract infection (UTI). These infections tend to be more prevalent in individuals who are catharized, which may be necessary for certain paralysis patients.
- The complete inability or reduced ability to empty one’s bladder, particularly due to neurological factors such as paralysis, can lead to an increased risk of a blockage in the kidneys, ureters, or urethra. This can lead to kidney stones, blood clots, scarring, or an enlarged prostate. Kidney stones are particularly dangerous, according to the Christopher Reeve Foundation, as “in those with spinal cord injury, stones can lead to episodes of autonomic dysreflexia and increased spasticity.”
- Bladder Cancer. Repeated urinary tract infections can lead to bladder cancer.
- Similar to the bladder, a person who is paralyzed may suffer from incontinence due to the disruption of nerve signals in the body. This is known as neurogenic bowel, and requires a “bowel program to avoid social embarrassment and skin breakdown and to keep stool from backing up into the bowel leading to impaction or nausea and vomiting of stool” per the Christopher Reeve Foundation.
- There are several ways in which the heart – and the entire cardiovascular system, really – can be affected by spinal cord injuries and paralysis. Trauma to the autonomic nervous system is considered a primary cause of cardiac complications after paralysis. Those suffering from paralysis may develop an arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat, bradycardia or slow heartbeat, or suffer cardiac arrest due to slow or absent nerve communication. Paralysis also increases the chances of:
- Orthostatic Hypotension – Low blood pressure that occurs when changing to an upright position
- Deep Venous Thromboembolism (DVT)
- Pulmonary Embolism (PE) or blood clots
- Autonomic Dysreflexia (AD) – the inability to control blood pressure
- An individual who is paralyzed may find it difficult or impossible to swallow and / or cough, depending on the extent of his or her paralysis. This can lead to serious, even fatal, lung infections such as pneumonia.
- The body’s largest organ, the skin is susceptible to bedsores, particularly in people who suffer from tetraplegia. Decreased movement of the paralyzed limbs can limit circulation, reducing the flow of blood and necessary nutrients to all areas. The skin cells die off, and bedsores, also known as pressure sores, can then develop.
Additionally, a person who is paralyzed may suffer cuts, scrapes, and bruises to the paralyzed areas of their body without being aware of it, simply because they cannot feel the injury. If not properly cared for, these injuries can lead to infections and additional complications.
The cost of complications from SCI
When considering the possible complications that may occur as a result of paralysis, it is important to consider the high cost of treatment and care for spinal cord injury victims. Every aspect of paralysis is expensive – from emergency medical care to the ongoing assistance with everyday life, to adapting your home and vehicle to accommodate a wheelchair or other necessary medical equipment and to improve accessibility via ramps, wider doorways, different flooring, etc. – the costs can add up quickly. However, it does not end there. Factor in the ongoing expenses associated with the medical complications that may crop up due to paralysis, and the costs can be substantial. Every complication brings with it the potential for additional doctor visits, prescriptions, hospitalizations, surgeries, and procedures. It all adds up to one staggering financial burden – a financial burden that you and your family should not have to shoulder if your spinal cord injury was caused by someone else’s negligence.
If you or a loved one suffered an SCI or other catastrophic injury due to the negligence of another person or entity, it is vital that you speak with personal injury lawyers who have experience handling cases like yours. The Los Angeles spinal cord injury lawyers at McNicholas & McNicholas, LLP have a strong record of fighting on behalf of victims in catastrophic personal injury cases. We understand what an injury like this can do to you, your family, and your future, and the toll it can take on you and your loved one’s – physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially. We work hard to secure the monetary compensation you deserve and to ensure the people or entities responsible for your or your loved one’s injury are held accountable for their negligence. Give us a call at 310-474-1582 or complete our contact form today to schedule a free, remote consultation with one of our Los Angeles SCI lawyers.
Please note that this blog is not to be construed as legal advice. Because every case is fact-specific, you should consult directly with an attorney to obtain legal advice specific to your situation.
For more than three decades, McNicholas & McNicholas, LLP has built a reputation as one of California’s leading law firms. Founded by a family of attorneys spanning three generations, John McNicholas and sons, Patrick and Matthew, have tried hundreds of cases to jury verdict on behalf of clients. Learn More about McNicholas & McNicholas