What Are the Long-Term Complications of a Spinal Cord Injury?

The spinal cord serves three primary bodily functions. It sends motor commands from the brain to the body, sensory information from the body to the brain, and coordinates the body’s reflexes.

Spinal cord injuries impact the body differently depending on the severity of the injury and the location of the damage to the spinal cord. Motor control or sensory function can be partially or totally lost, or a whole body system can be affected. 

Spinal cord injuries can worsen over time and new life-threatening conditions can develop. Accident victims must recognize the long-term complications of spinal cord injuries for their physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

Long-Term Health Complications After a Spinal Cord Injury

The long-term complications of a spinal cord injury depend on the location and severity of damage to the spinal cord. While a variety of complications may arise, the most common are listed below.

  • Poor blood circulation. The inability to move or confinement to a bed or wheelchair can cause blood to pool in the body. When blood pools in the arms and legs, blood vessels become too relaxed and cannot efficiently push blood back to the heart. The effects of poor blood circulation are cold extremities, dizziness, and weakness.
  • Improper bowel and bladder function. Bowel and bladder incontinence or the inability to empty the bowels and bladder fully can cause infection and disease. When these muscles are unable to work due to injury, medications, catheterization, and diet regulation can help along with any appropriate lifestyle changes.
  • Pain. Pain can come from many sources including muscle spasticity, muscle strain, and internal organs. Muscle spasticity and strain may be addressed by medication, physical therapy, massage, or alternative therapies. Internal organ pain may be from bowel or bladder issues and require diet or medical attention. 
  • Pneumonia. A high-level spinal cord injury can affect the ability to cough and clear the airway of fluid. Once fluid builds up, it can become infected and lead to pneumonia. Pneumonia is when one or both lungs fill with fluid and become infected. Pneumonia is often treatable with antibiotics and respiratory exercises.
  • Heterotopic ossification. Heterotopic ossification is abnormal bone growth in the soft tissue below the site of spinal cord injury. It typically occurs around the hips and is present in nearly 20% of spinal cord injuries. Treatment for heterotopic ossification includes medication, surgery to remove bone growth, physical therapy, and radiation therapy.
  • Depression and anxiety. A spinal cord injury is a life-altering event. An accident victim must adapt to changes at home, work, school, in their relationships, and their body. Coping with these is understandably overwhelming. Help is needed from friends, family, and professionals. Support groups, psychologists, and a physician are all useful resources.

Not all long-term complications of a spinal cord injury are preventable. However, knowing they exist can help with their management. Always take note of new symptoms after a spinal cord injury and seek immediate medical care.

Speak with an Experienced Spinal Cord Injury Attorney Today

Coping with the implications of a spinal cord injury takes time, patience, and a strong support system. The reality is, it also takes money. Spinal cord injuries are costly and ongoing.

If your spinal cord injury was the result of someone else’s negligence, contact the attorneys at Dolt, Thompson, Shepherd & Conway PSC. Our Louisville spinal cord injury attorneys will review your injury claim at no cost. If you qualify for compensation, we will walk you through the claims process and start your case right away.

Do not wait to speak to an experienced Louisville personal injury attorney at Dolt, Thompson, Shepherd & Conway PSC. Kentucky limits the time you have to file a spinal cord injury claim. Call us at 502-369-0616 today.