What Happens If Your Spinal Cord Is Severed?

injuries | June 18, 2021

Spinal cord injuries are considered catastrophic because they can significantly alter a person’s life. However, there are various levels of spinal cord injuries that can occur. When a spinal cord is severed, this will be considered the most severe level of spinal cord injury.

What Happens If Your Spinal Cord Is Severed?

Various Types of Spinal Cord Injuries

Our spinal cords are the control pathways of our bodies. The spinal cord is filled with a bundle of nerves that run from the base of our neck and down the middle of our back. These nerves send messages between the brain and the body and help us perform every daily function. Anytime the spinal cord suffers an injury in an accident, this can significantly alter the victim’s life.

There are two types of spinal cord injuries that we discuss – complete spinal cord injuries and incomplete spinal cord injuries.

  • Complete spinal cord injuries often lead to total and permanent damage below the injury site. This means that a person will experience a loss of motion and sensation from the injury site downward.
  • Incomplete spinal cord injuries do not have the same type of impact, and a person may be able to retain some sensation and motion below the injury site.

Unfortunately, when an accident severs the spinal cord, they will experience a “complete” spinal cord injury. From the moment the spinal cord is severed, the body will no longer be able to communicate with the brain below the injury point. From the injury site downward, a person will lose all motion, sensation, and function.

Depending on where the spinal cord is severed, this can lead to different impacts on the body. For example, if the spinal cord is severed near the neck or upper back, this can lead to a person having difficulty breathing and swallowing as well as complete paralysis below the injury. If the spinal cord is severed near the hips, this may result in total paralysis in both legs but will not likely affect a person’s ability to breathe or swallow.

How Often do Spinal Cords Become Severed?

Any spinal cord injury is severe, but not every spinal cord injury results in the severing of the cord. The vast majority of spinal cord injuries are considered “incomplete.”

According to data available from the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC), we can see that there are approximately 291,000 people living with spinal cord injuries in the US, though we do not have data about the level of severity of these victims. There are nearly 18,000 new spinal cord injury cases that arise each year, but this data does not include those who die at the location of the incident that caused the spinal cord injury.

Is it Possible to Recover From a Severed Spinal Cord?

The chances of making a recovery after the spinal cord is severed are very low. However, medical professionals will focus on various types of rehabilitative treatments that can help strengthen a person’s body and help them adjust to the new living situation. When a person suffers from a severed spinal cord, the focus needs to be on treating any pain that the victim may be in and helping them and their family members adjust to the new lifestyle. If you or a loved one suffered a spinal cord injury due to the negligence of another, speak with an experienced spinal cord injury lawyer to explore your legal options.