Florida personal injury lawyer and chiropractic physician, Guy S. DiMartino, DC, JD discusses the signs and symptoms of spinal cord injuries.
The spinal cord runs from the brain to the lower back. It is made up of a bunch of nerve cells that join together into tracts. One way to think of the spinal cord is to think of a major highway with a number of traffic lanes going up (bringing information to the brain) and going down (sending information from the brain to the rest of the body). The spinal cord is protected by the spinal or vertebral column.
The vertebral column is made up of five regions: cervical (neck), thoracic (mid-back), lumbar (low back), sacral, and coccyx (tail bone). The cervical spine includes 7 vertebrae. The thoracic spine includes 12 vertebrae and the lumbar spine 5 vertebrae. The spinal cord leaves the brain through a large hole at the base of the skull called the foramen magnum. In between each vertebrae except between the first and second cervical vertebrae, a nerve leaves the spinal cord through a space called the IVF. In the average person, the spinal cord ends somewhere around the first and second lumbar levels and that is called the filium terminale. The spinal cord also has a some nerves running down to the lower lumbar and sacral regions of the spine and this is called the cauda equina, Latin for “horse's tail”.
How Common is Spinal Cord Compression?
Spinal cord compression is pretty common. About 12,000 new cases of spinal cord compression are reported every year. The spinal cord can become compressed because of trauma, herniated discs, tumors, changes in the spinal column, infection or medical treatment. The Symptoms of Spinal Cord Compression:
A person may have spinal cord compression if they experience the following:
- Inability to move legs or arms (motor paralysis)
- Loss of feeling (sensory losss)
- Numbness, tingling, and pain
- Loss of bladder control – urinary incontinence
- Loss of bowel control – fecal incontinence
If these symptoms start immediately after an accident or a medical procedure, it may be a medical emergency and you should go the hospital or your doctor.
How Do Doctors Diagnose Spinal Cord Compression?
In order to diagnose spinal compression, your doctor will most likely do the following:
- Take a complete history
- Perform a thorough physical exam and neurological exam
- Order diagnostic imaging such as x-rays, CT scans, or MRI
- Order a nerve conduction velocity (NCV) and/or electromyography (EMG)
If there moderate or severe spinal cord compression, it is called myelopathy. These folks may show a pattern of muscle weakness, loss of sensation, reflex changes and pathological reflexes consistent with the region of the spinal cord that is injured.
What Causes of Spinal Cord Compression?
Acute Spinal cord compression can be caused by truck, car or motorcycle accidents. These accidents can break of vertebrae or injure a disc in between the vertebrae. If these acute injuries aren't diagnosed and treated timely and accurately these folks can experience severe life long consequences. If a doctor, nurse practitioner or physician's assistant doesn't timely diagnose the acute spinal cord injury, the patient may have a medical malpractice claim.
Spinal cord injuries are complex and can arise from a variety of situations. When dealing with these injuries, It is best to hire a lawyer with the medical knowledge and experience regarding these matters. If you have any questions about a spinal cord injury, call Dr. Guy S. DiMartino, DC, JD at (352) 267-9168 or fill out the internet consultation box to the right. Bridging the law and medicine!