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Paraplegia is the state of paralysis in the lower half of the bodycharacterized by impairment of sensory and motor functions. It is typically the result of congenital conditions or spinal cord injuries. The spinal cord is an extremely sensitive area.Spinal surgery and treatment should be approached with caution and precision. Surgical errors and failure to diagnose related conditions can lead to patient paraplegia.

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Role of the Spinal Cord

The brain and the spinal cord make up the body’s central nervous system (CNS). The CNS’s role is coordinating activity between all parts of the body, including processing and reacting to external stimuli. The spinal cord is one of the primary elements that enable motor function in the body. It is composed of a thin, tube-shaped bundle of nerves and cells that descends from the brain.

The spinal cord is the central “highway” through which signals from the brain are sent throughout the body. These signals include sensory functions such as temperature, touch, and pain, as well as commands for muscle movement. When the spinal cord is compromised and paraplegia occurs, the brain’s signals cannot be properly sent to specific parts of the body.

Paraplegia due to Medical Malpractice

Immediately after the onset of a spinal cord or related nerve injury, it is imperative to properly diagnose and treat the condition. The longer these injuries are untreated, the greater the risk of spreading or swelling of the injury. In a hospital or under professional supervision, negligence or carelessness surrounding a medical condition can lead to paraplegia due to medical malpractice.

Paraplegia in a medical environment can be caused by:

  • Failure to diagnose a curable condition that leads to paraplegia
  • Improper or negligent treatment of a reversible spinal cord injury
  • Lack of oxygen caused by an unrelated procedure
  • Pressure on the spinal cord from a blood clot caused by an unrelated procedure

Complications from Paraplegia

Those suffering from paraplegia may experience:

  • Urinary tract infections
  • Urinary and fecal incontinence
  • Kidney stones
  • Autonomic dysreflexia
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Decubitus, or pressure sores
  • Thrombosis, or blood vessel clots
  • Muscle autophagy, or degradation
  • Chronic nerve pain surrounding the injury
  • Respiratory infections such as pneumonia

Risk Factors and Causes

There are multiple congenital diseases that can lead to paraplegia. Many of these conditions are incurable despite adequate medical attention. Apart from congenital conditions, paraplegia is often caused by nervous tissue injuries to the spinal cord or swelling and inflammation resulting from an injury near the spine. Car accidents, sports injuries, and other accidents can cause severe spinal cord injury and paraplegia. There are also numerous illnesses that can directly contribute to the onset of paraplegia if left undiagnosed or treated improperly.

Congenital conditions that cause paraplegia may involve:

  • Spina bifida
  • Scoliosis
  • Pott’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Lou Gehrig’s Disease
  • Spastic cerebral palsy
  • Poliomyelitis, or simply polio
  • Hereditary spastic paraplegia

Untreated or mistreated conditions that can lead to paraplegia include:

  • Spinal cord injury
  • Spinal fracture
  • Spinal tuberculosis
  • Spinal compression
  • Spinal epidural hematoma
  • Vertebral disc prolapse
  • Spinal cord or vertebral tumor growth
  • Paragonimiasis,or a food-borne parasitic infection

 

Sources:

Fry, Christopher S., Micah J. Drummond, et al. “Paraplegia increases skeletal muscle autophagy.” Muscle & Nerve. 46.5 (2012): 793-798. Web. 29 Nov. 2012.
Skouen, Jan Sture, Stanley F. Wainapel, and Marcelle M. Willock.”Paraplegia following epidural anesthesia.” ActaNeurologicaScandinavica. 72.4 (1985): 437–443. Web. 29 Nov. 2012.
Vacca, VM, Jr. “Action Stat. Acute Paraplegia.” Nursing. 37.6 (2007): 64. CINAHL Plus with Full Text.Web. 29 Nov. 2012.