Incomplete spinal cord injury (ISC)

What is incomplete spinal cord injury?

In contrast to complete paraplegia, only part of the spinal cord is damaged with incomplete spinal cord injury. The injury to the neural structures within the vertebral canal leads to paralysis with a partial or complete loss of body functions – such as motor skills and sensations.
Spinal cord injuries are usually due to trauma such as a traffic accident, fall or sports injury. Reliable statements regarding the number of people sustaining an incomplete spinal cord injury each year cannot really be made due to different data collection standards. Approximately 19 cases per one million residents occur in Germany each year. Men are over three times more frequently affected than women.

What are the consequences of incomplete spinal cord injury?

Depending on the level of the injury, various paralysis patterns occur: injuries in the neck area lead to paralysis of the hands, arms, torso and legs (known as tetraplegia). Injuries in the thoracic, lumbar or sacral area in turn cause paralysis of the legs, but sometimes also the torso and pelvic region (internal organs). This form is called paraplegia.

While sensations can often still be felt with incomplete spinal cord injury, movements are no longer possible. Medical devices such as orthoses support the body in such cases, and muscles can be activated to a certain extent with functional electrical stimulation (FES). Sometimes the exact opposite applies: movements are possible, but the patient no longer feels anything in the affected region.

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