Levels of Spinal Injury & Classification | Fieldfisher
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Levels of Spinal Injury

There are a number of levels of spinal injury and they all have different implications for the individual involved.


This term can describe both a complete and an incomplete paralysis which affects the legs and also the trunk but not the arms. This is as a consequence of damage to the spinal cord at thoracic one and below.


Also known as quadriplegia. This describes paralysis from the neck down affecting all four limbs and the trunk. This will be the result of damage to the spinal cord between C1 and C8.

Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury

Here there may still be some sensory function that remains. People may have feelings but not have movement for example. How the spinal injury affects the person is a very much an individual matter.

Medical Management

Providing the patient’s life is no longer at risk, then the medical management of the spinal column will be a priority. The individual will be moved to a Spinal Cord Injury Unit as quickly as possible. Traction devices may be used as well as braces in order to hold the spine in place.

Surgery may be carried out to stabilise the spinal column and rods and plates may be inserted to fix the spine in place.


Initial complications can include things such as:

  • Pressure sores
  • Respiratory complications
  • Bowel management

Providing you are in a Specialist Spinal Injury Unit, the nurses and doctors caring for you will be aware of these risks and will look out for the signs.

Other Complications can include: Autonomic Dysreflexia

The brain has lost normal control over the body. This may cause a dramatic increase in blood pressure which can then go on to cause severe headaches and sweating. This needs careful management by the medical team.


It is not unusual for those who have suffered a spinal cord injury to suffer spasms. These may be mild or they can be significant and, in more severe cases, can cause the individual to be thrown from their wheelchair. The use of Baclofen medication is key and surgery can take place to insert in the body a Baclofen pump in order that Baclofen may be administered on a regular basis.

Long Term Care

Rehabilitation is key in ensuring that someone with a spinal cord injury adapts and learns how to regain their independence. There will be a very different world but one that certainly can be managed with the assistance of aids and equipment.

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