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What Is the Difference Between Complete Spinal Cord Injury and Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury?

Complete spinal cord injury leads to loss of motion and sensation below the damaged location, difficulty controlling bladder and bowel movement, while incomplete spinal cord injury means there are some sensations and muscular movement below the place of the injury, as well as chronic pain.

There are two types of spinal cord injury: complete and incomplete. In a complete spinal cord injury, the transmission of signals across a spinal cord lesion does not exist at all, with any control perception of sensations or movement below the level of the lesion. The symptoms of a complete or an incomplete spinal cord injury are virtually indistinguishable immediately after your injury. The hallmarks of a complete spinal injury include:

  • Complete loss of motion below the site of the injury
  • Difficulty controlling your bladder and bowels
  • In some cases, difficulty breathing on your own
  • Loss of sensation below the site of the injury

An incomplete spinal cord injury allows the existence of a few functional (undamaged) pathways across the spinal cord lesion. The result can vary and depends on the parts of the spinal cord that were damaged. The hallmarks of an incomplete spinal injury include:

  • Retaining some sensation below the site of the injury (feelings may come and go, and may be much weaker than the sensations you used to experience)
  • Being able to move some muscles below the site of the injury (you may have good control over some muscles, but no control over others)
  • Pain below the injury
  • Chronic pain

Incomplete spinal cord injuries allow the spinal cord to retain some function. Thus, faster progress in recovery is made by incomplete injury survivors.

If you, or a loved one, have suffered a spinal cord injury in an accident you may have lots of questions. From car crashes to medical malpractice, we’ve handled Miami injury cases for over 20 years. Here, we are going to answer What Is the Difference Between Complete Spinal Cord Injury and Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury when making a legal claim.

Complete vs. Incomplete SCI Causes and Treatment

In the first weeks after an injury, swelling may make an incomplete spinal cord injury appear to be a complete one. Whether an SCI is complete or incomplete has little to do with the source of the injury. A gunshot wound can partially or fully sever the spinal cord, and something as innocent as the position in which a person was sitting at the time of the injury may determine whether it is a complete or incomplete one. Find out more about the leading causes of both complete and incomplete spinal cord injuries from our spinal cord injury page.

Incomplete spinal cord injuries treatment and recovery:

  • Incomplete SCIs allow the spinal cord to retain some function; so, incomplete injury survivors often make faster progress in recovery.
  • Spinal cord injury survivors who seek care at facilities offering Model Systems care generally have better outcomes.

Complete spinal cord injuries treatment and recovery:

  • The recovery becomes more unlikely the higher the injury is health factors can complicate the recovery process. An infection, for instance, may slow down the recovery journey by increasing swelling.
  • Physical therapy is challenging and often painful. But it is the most effective way to teach your brain how to communicate with the rest of your body.
  • Complete SCI is a more severe injury, but it is neither a death sentence nor a reason for hopelessness.
  • Dedication to recovery and good medical care can all help you move toward wellness.

Much remains to be understood about SCIs, and as technology changes and research improves, doctors may develop novel and effective ways for treating even the most severe spinal cord injuries.

Differences in Health Care Costs and Living Expenses

Medical expenses for SCIs are often well over a million dollars and vary greatly based on education, neurological impairment, and pre-injury employment history and are also dependent on the severity of your injuries and the number of medical services you need.

According to the Dana and Christopher Reeve Foundation, average yearly costs are as follows:

  • In the first year, people suffering from tetraplegia can expect to pay about $1M for care. Low tetraplegia produces about $769K in medical expenses. After the first year, costs tend to go down. Those with high tetraplegia incur costs of about $184K annually, compared to $113K for people with low tetraplegia.
  • In the first year, paraplegia costs about $518K. Injuries that produce incomplete motor function at any level cost an average of $347K. In the subsequent years, paraplegia costs about $69K each year, while incomplete motor function produces the lowest costs, of about $42K.

Who Is Liable for My SCI?

  • The parties that are responsible for causing a car, truck, bus, or motorcycle accident
  • Homeowners who did not warn you, a guest, of any known dangers
  • The medical staff that attended to you, such as, a doctor, nurse, or hospital
  • The manufacturer or seller of a product that was defective

Ideally, a legal claim could help you fully recover what your injury took from you. But in our legal system, the best a claim or lawsuit can offer you is money. Some of the factors your lawyer will consider when valuing your spinal cord injury claim include:

  • Your pain and suffering
  • Medical and other expenses
  • The ability of the other party to cover your damages
  • Lost wages and earning potential

SCI cost often extends far beyond the physical ramifications. When you need to learn how to live life to the fullest again, the last thing you want to worry about is how to finance the high cost of injuries.

If your SCI was caused by medical malpractice, you have 2 years from the time the incident occurred to file a claim. For personal injury, the statute of limitations for a claim is four years. Visit our main spinal cord injury page which will help explain more about legal intervention in spinal cord injury cases.

If you suffered an injury to your spinal cord due to someone else's negligence, call us at our Miami based office and together we can determine if you have a case.

For questions and free legal advice to help individuals please call us

Disclaimer: Please note that the information provided on this site is not formal legal advice, also the site does not allow you to form an attorney-client relationship.