What are the Differences Between Complete and Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury?

Posted: November 10, 2021

Spinal cord trauma can be devastating, but it is important to point out that not all spinal cord injuries are exactly the same. Even injuries that occur in the same ways and along the same areas of the spine often have signs and symptoms that vary from person to person. Here, we want to specifically discuss the difference between a “complete” and “incomplete” spinal cord injury.

No Two Spinal Cord Injuries Are Exactly Alike

We have to be careful not to generalize spinal cord injuries. Even individuals who sustain similar types of injuries in the same area of the spine could experience completely different symptoms from one another. When we turn to information available from the Mayo Clinic to examine the severity of these injuries, we want to first focus on whether or not the injury is considered “complete” or “incomplete.”

Complete Spinal Cord Injuries in Denver

Complete spinal cord injuries occur anytime the spine is completely compressed or severed. When this occurs, it means that the brain is no longer able to send any signals to the areas of the body below the site of the injury. When a person experiences a complete spinal cord injury, they will be paralyzed from the site where the injury occurred downward. This could result in quadriplegia for injuries that occur in the neck region or paraplegia for injuries that occur lower on the spine.

Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries in Denver

An incomplete spinal cord injury can occur when the spinal cord sustains any type of trauma, but the spinal cord is not completely severed or compressed. In these situations, an individual will typically retain various levels of functionality or feeling below the site of the injury. The overall severity of an incomplete spinal cord injury will depend on various factors. Some incomplete spinal cord injury victims experience some paralysis below the site of the injury, but it is not uncommon for a person to experience only mild weakness as a result of the injury.

Understanding the Costs of a Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal cord injuries, both complete or incomplete, can be incredibly costly. Information available from the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC) shows us that the first year of medical care for a spinal cord injury can range anywhere from approximately $380,000 to more than $1.1 million. The NSCISC also states that every additional year of medical care can cost as much as $46,000 to more than $200,000 throughout a person’s life.

When working to properly examine the costs of an incomplete or complete spinal cord injury, we have to look further than these medical costs. The reality is that spinal cord injury victims are often not able to work, at least not in the same capacity that they could before the injury occurred. This can lead to a significant amount of lost income. Additionally, spinal cord injury victims typically have to pay money to modify homes or vehicles to help with their mobility, and they may even need extensive in-home medical care, physical therapy, or rehabilitation. If you’ve suffered a spinal cord injury, make sure to work with an experienced Denver spinal cord injury attorney.