Spinal-Injury.net :  Incomplete Tetraplegia


Incomplete Tetraplegia

Every incomplete tetraplegic or quadriplegic will be different.  Just because the cord damage is the same level as another person it doesn't mean the resultant disability will be the same.  In fact most 'incompletes' are very different.  What recovery there is will be dependent on three main factors.  How badly the cord was damaged, what level it is and the precise area of the cord that was affected.

The potential recovery is normally seen in the first 6 months post injury although recovery gains have been reported to continue for up to 2-3 years afterwards.  Recoveries and the potential for them will vary enormously.  The very incomplete may have virtually no noticeable loss of motor function but impaired sensation or other bodily functions.  The other end of the scale is where there is little or no motor function below the level of injury but sensation to touch/pain etc has been preserved. The potential for recovery will be affected by other factors too. i.e. access to good physiotherapy and occupational therapy, normally this will be on a specialist spinal injuries unit. General health post injury and the right mental attitude are also important in maximising any potential return of function.

My own injury is described as C4 incomplete tetraplegia.  My cord damage is central cord syndrome.  Very fortunately I was airlifted from the scene of my accident and within two weeks was on a specialist spinal injuries unit in London.  My outcome is very similar to what is described below for central cord syndrome.  My legs are much stronger than my arms enabling me to walk slowly with crutches indoors. My left arm has little motor function and my right about 30% of normal range of movement.  My shoulder function and ability to extend or raise my right arm has remained very poor, meaning I still require a lot of help with daily living.  My injury was in '94 and I broke C2,3 + 4, and consider myself very very fortunate to have had an incomplete injury at that level.

See below for the most common incomplete syndromes.
Incomplete Paraplegia - Tetraplegia 

Types of Incomplete Spinal Injuries
An incomplete lesion is the term used to describe partial damage to the spinal cord. With an incomplete lesion, some motor and sensory function remains. People with an incomplete injury may have feeling, but little or no movement. Others may have movement and little or no feeling. Incomplete spinal injuries differ from one person to another because the amount of damage to each personís nerve fibres is different.

The effects of incomplete lesions depend upon the area of the cord (front, back, side, etc) affected. The part of the cord damaged depends on the forces involved in the injury.

Anterior Cord Syndrome: is when the damage is towards the front of the spinal cord, this can leave a person with the loss or impaired ability to sense pain, temperature and touch sensations below their level of injury. Pressure and joint sensation may be preserved. It is possible for some people with this injury to later recover some movement.

Central Cord Syndrome: is when the damage is in the centre of the spinal cord. This typically results in the loss of function in the arms, but some leg movement may be preserved. There may also be some control over the bowel and bladder preserved. It is possible for some recovery from this type of injury, usually starting in the legs, gradually progressing upwards.

Posterior Cord Syndrome: is when the damage is towards the back of the spinal cord. This type of injury may leave the person with good muscle power, pain and temperature sensation, however they may experience difficulty in coordinating movement of their limbs.

Brown-Séquard syndrome: is when damage is towards one side of the spinal cord. This results in impaired or loss of movement to the injured side, but pain and temperature sensation may be preserved. The opposite side of injury will have normal movement, but pain and temperature sensation will be impaired or lost.

Cauda equina lesion: The Cauda Equina is the mass of nerves which fan out of the spinal cord at between the first and second Lumbar region of the spine. The spinal cord ends at L1 and L2 at which point a bundle of nerves travel downwards through the Lumbar and Sacral vertebrae. Injury to these nerves will cause partial or complete loss of movement and sensation. It is possible, if the nerves are not too badly damaged, for them to grow again and for the recovery of function.

Incomplete Paraplegia - Treatment - Complications - Causes of SCI - My Injury

Back to top

Spinal-Injury.net :  Incomplete Tetraplegia



Copyright © 2002-2015 Spinal-Injury Network. All rights reserved. Cookie Policy