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Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury - Explaining Some Common Types


An incomplete spinal cord injury is one in which the spinal cord's capacity to transmit signals to or from the brain is preserved. Additionally, movement and mild feelings are both possible below the site of injury.

An incomplete spinal cord injury, in contrast to a complete SCI, only partially severs the spinal cord at the site of the damage, allowing some impulses to pass past the level of injury.

When people talk about your spinal cord injury, you will often hear the words "complete" or "incomplete."

Animation showing affected Spinal Cord
Animation showing affected Spinal Cord

Let's just go through it quickly.

COPYRIGHT_SPINE: Published on https://spinal-injury.net/incomplete-spinal-cord-injury/ by Dr. Bill Butcher on 2022-09-28T04:10:09.694Z

Complete Spinal Cord Injury

A complete loss of sensory and motor function below the level of injury indicates a complete injury.

The loss of motor and sensory function below the injury does not necessarily mean that there are no intact axons or nerves still crossing the lesion site; it just means that they are not working as they should because of the injury.

Differences And Similarities Between Complete And Incomplete SCI

Both full and incomplete SCIs (spinal cord injuries) have a number of characteristics. For instance, both types of injuries have many of the same causes, both affect how the body functions above and below the damage site; and both have similar treatment options.

The degree of restriction they impose when both SCIs occur in the same area of the spine is the primary distinction between partial and complete SCIs. Complete SCIs typically impose greater restrictions than partial SCIs.

Also, people with incomplete SCIs tend to have a better overall prognosis and get better from their injuries faster than people with complete SCIs.

Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury Symptoms

The functions of the spinal cord are only partially affected in cases of incomplete spinal cord injuries. Therefore, the outcomes of incomplete spinal cord damage are more complex.

Even with a partial spinal cord injury caused by an infection, a person could still do well.

However, those who survive a gunshot wound with an incomplete high-spine injury could experience difficulties like those experienced by those who survive a complete spinal cord injury. An incomplete spinal cord injury has certain traits, such as:

  • Maintaining some sensation below the injury's location.
  • The ability to feel may be sporadic and considerably weaker than the sensations you once had.
  • The ability to move some muscles beneath the damage.
  • You may have adequate control over some muscles but poor control over others, and the range of motion may vary.
  • Chronic pain is a problem for many people who have survived partial spinal cord injuries.

Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury Examples

Central Cord Syndrome

As the name suggests, this occurs when the spinal cord's middle is hurt. Here, numbness and loss of limb control below the injury site are frequent occurrences.

However, this kind of injury frequently leaves the arm muscles weaker than the leg muscles. With counseling and occupational or physical therapy, it might be feasible for some people with this type of incomplete SCI to regain some function.

Frontal Cord Syndrome

When the spinal cord's front suffers damage, it is said to have anterior cord syndrome. This frequently obstructs the ability to feel touch, pain, and warmth. With therapy, most people who have an anterior cord injury can regain some movement.

Backward Cord Syndrome

When the spinal cord's posterior, or back, sustains damage, commonly observed with wounds brought on by blows to the back that are acute.

Most people who have had a back injury have trouble with their coordination, but they still have good posture, muscle tone, and even movement.

Digital illustration of common types of Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury
Digital illustration of common types of Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury

Cauda Equina Syndrome

Lesions in the cauda equina's nerve roots frequently result in the syndrome cauda equina (i.e., the lumbar spinal nerve bundle). If left untreated, cauda equina lesions can result in severe lower back discomfort, muscular weakness, sensory loss, and even paralysis, according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS).

By treating the lesions, more severe symptoms can be avoided. If treated quickly, this can lessen some damage that can't be fixed, but recovery is not guaranteed, just like with any SCI.

Brown-Sequard Syndrome

The medical term for an incomplete SCI that affects either the left or right side of the spinal cord and results in an asymmetrical injury is Brown-Sequard syndrome.

This type of SCI often causes either hemiplegia/hemiparesis or monoplegia/monoparesis (paralysis of one limb, usually a leg) (paralysis of an arm and a leg on one side of the body, but pain and temperature changes on the other side of the body).

Basically, this injury may make the side of the body closest to where it happened less useful or even make it impossible to use. The other side, on the other hand, may be almost fully functional.

Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury Treatment

Because partial spinal cord injuries still allow for some spinal cord function, partial damage survivors frequently recover more quickly. However, this is not the only aspect that affects recovery.

Other important concerns include the injury's site. The injury's level determines how likely recuperation is to be. For instance:

  • An infection could make the edema worse and delay healing.
  • Patients with spinal cord injuries who go to facilities that provide Model Systems care typically have better results.
  • The dedication you have to physical therapy also have an effect on it. Physical treatment can be difficult and uncomfortable. The best method to train your brain to connect with the rest of your body is to do it, though.

Spinal Cord Injury Complete Or Incomplete - Everything You Need To Know - Dr. Nabil Ebraheim

People Also Ask

Can You Recover From An Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury?

For many spinal cord injuries, especially incomplete ones, it can take up to 18 months for the person to get some of their function back.

What Is The Most Common Type Of Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury?

The most typical incomplete cord injury, central cord syndrome, nearly invariably results from a severe injury.

What Is The Difference Between An Incomplete And Complete Spinal Cord Injury?

The portion of the spinal cord that is impacted by a total spinal cord injury is permanently damaged. Complete spinal cord damage can result in paraplegia or tetraplegia. Partial spinal cord damage is referred to as an "incomplete spinal cord injury."


Accordingly, a person with an incomplete spinal cord injury (SCI) may still have some function and feeling below the lesion site, but a person with a complete spinal cord injury would not have any feeling or function (because the link between the nervous system and the brain is completely severed).

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About The Authors

Dr. Bill Butcher

Dr. Bill Butcher - With more than two decades of experience, Dr. Bill Butcher aims to provide a repository for educational materials, sources of information, details of forthcoming events, and original articles related to the medical field and about health subjects that matter to you. His goal is to help make your life better, to help you find your way when faced with healthcare decisions, and to help you feel better about your health and that of your family. Bill received his medical degree at Boston University School of Medicine and spent his entire career helping people find the health and medical information, support, and services they need. His mission is to help millions of people feel fantastic by restoring them to optimal health.

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