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What Are the Two Types of Spinal Cord Injuries?

Understanding Spinal Cord Injuries

A spinal cord injury means that a person has suffered damage to any part of the spinal cord or nerves at the end of the spinal canal. While in some cases, a spinal cord injury can be managed with treatments and therapies, the damage is permanent, and in the most severe cases, the consequences are life-altering. Here’s what you need to know.

Complete vs. Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury

There are two classifications of spinal cord injuries — complete and incomplete. Read on to learn the differences between each.

Complete Spinal Cord Injury

A complete spinal cord injury causes total paralysis and happens when a person loses all sensory and motor functions below the level of injury. Living with a complete spinal cord injury means that a person cannot feel anything at or below where the trauma occurred.

Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury

Someone with an incomplete spinal cord injury has partial paralysis and may have some function below the level of injury. This means that a person may have some feeling, sensation, or movement after the injury.

Long-Term Effects of Spinal Cord Injuries

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), someone living with a spinal cord injury may face the following long-term consequences and significant impairment to their life.

  • Permanent paralysis (paraplegia, quadriplegia).
  • Respiratory complications (ineffective cough, pneumonia, sleep-related respiratory disorders).
  • Cardiovascular complications (cardiac atrophy, autonomic dysreflexia).
  • Urinary and Bowel complications (bladder dysfunction, loss of normal bowel function).
  • Spasticity (intermittent or involuntary reflexes or muscle spasms).
  • Pain syndromes (chronic musculoskeletal pain, neuropathic pain).
  • Diseases of the skin (pressure ulcers).
  • Osteoporosis and bone fractures (low bone mass).

Spinal Cord Injury Statistics

The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center reports that incomplete spinal cord injuries are the most common, accounting for 65% of all spinal cord injuries in 2015. Here are some other facts:

  • It’s estimated that there are about 12,500 new spinal cord injury cases every year in the U.S.
  • The average age at the time of injury is 42 years.
  • Males account for roughly 80% of new spinal cord injury cases each year.
  • Motor vehicle crashes are currently the leading cause of injury, followed by falls, acts of violence, and sports/recreation activities.

Ensuring Compensation for Your Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal cord injury claims are complex, so they must be handled by an experienced legal team of strong litigators. At McGinn Montoya Love Curry & Sievers PA, We make it our mission to do everything to help our clients obtain justice and hold those responsible for causing harm accountable for their negligent actions. We are here to protect your right to receive maximum compensation for your injuries.

For more information, call our office at (505) 405-4441 or fill out this form on our website for a free consultation.


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We are dedicated to supporting families during the most challenging times, with a focus exclusively on cases involving catastrophic injuries or the loss of a loved one. Please reach out if you have any questions. We look forward to speaking with you.

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