Spinal Cord Injury
A spinal cord injury (SCI) is damage to the spinal cord that causes changes in its function, either temporary or permanent. These changes translate into the loss of muscle function, sensation, or autonomic function in parts of the body served by the spinal cord below the level of the lesion. Injuries can occur at any level of the spinal cord and can be classified as a complete injury, a total loss of sensation and muscle function, or incomplete, meaning some nervous signals are able to travel past the injured area of the cord. Depending on the location and severity of damage to the spinal cord, the symptoms can vary widely, from pain or numbness to paralysis to incontinence. The prognosis also ranges widely, from the full recovery in rare cases to permanent tetraplegia (also called quadriplegia) in injuries at the level of the neck, and paraplegia in lower injuries. Complications that can occur in the short and long term after injury include muscle atrophy, pressure sores, infections, and respiratory problems.