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Quadriplegia is a kind of paralysis that generally affects all four limbs and the torso, including partial or total loss of use or feeling below the neck. Also called tetraplegia, it is generally caused by spinal cord damage or brain injury that prevents the nerves and muscles from receiving signals from the brain. 

The symptoms of quadriplegia can be different in different people. It can range from weakness, numbness, or reduced sensation to a total loss of feeling. Flaccid paralysis leaves the limbs unable to move. Spastic paralysis can cause muscles stiffness or uncontrolled movement in the muscles

Tetraplegia can be caused by a traumatic accident, like an automobile accident or construction site fall. Additionally, tetraplegia can be caused by illness or disease, birth defects, or other health conditions. If a loved one was injured in an accident and was paralyzed, contact your personal injury attorney for help. 

If a doctor negligently caused paralysis through a surgical error, delayed diagnosis, or caused a serious infection that led to paralysis, you may have a claim for damages. Contact your medical malpractice attorney to understand your rights. 

Quadriplegia Injury Statistics and Causes

According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC), there are an estimated 294,000 persons in the U.S. with spinal cord injuries. About 47% of those with a spinal cord injury have incomplete tetraplegia. Complete tetraplegia accounts for about 12% of neurological spinal injuries. 

Incomplete quadriplegia generally means there is some level of feeling and limited muscle control in some parts of the affected area, including the anus. Complete tetraplegics generally do not have feeling in the anal area and cannot tighten the anus. 

Common causes of quadriplegia include: 

  • Vehicular accidents
  • Fall injuries
  • Gunshot wounds 
  • Sports injuries 
  • Medical/surgical injury
  • Stroke
  • Genetic disorders
  • Birth injuries
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Poliomyelitis
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Parkinson’s 
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
  • Botulism
  • Tick Paralysis
  • Guillain–Barré Syndrome (GBS)
  • Tumors
  • Infection

How Spinal Injuries Cause Paralysis 

Quadriplegia can be classified as High Tetraplegia or Low Tetraplegia. High tetraplegia affects the spinal cord at C1 to C4 vertebrae. Low tetraplegia affects the spinal cord at C5 to C8 vertebrae. Generally, the higher on the spine (closer to the brain) the spinal cord injury occurs, the more severe the injury and paralysis. 

Spinal cord injuries that causes quadriplegia are generally those in the cervical spinal cord area, between cervical nerves at C1 to C8. Injury to C1 to C8 general effects may include: 

C1-C4 Cervical Nerve Injury

  • The most severe spinal cord injuries
  • Quadriplegia
  • Inability to breath, cough, or control bowel or bladder movements,
  • Speaking impairment
  • Requires complete assistance with activities of daily living (ADL)
  • Requires round-the-clock personal care
  • May be able to use powered wheelchairs

C5 Cervical Nerve Injury

  • Individual may be able to raise arms and bend elbows
  • Likely total paralysis of hands, wrists, and lower extremities
  • May require assistance with many activities of daily living

C6 Cervical Nerve Injury

  • Individual may be able to bend at the wrists bud hands may remain paralyzed
  • May be able to use a wheelchair
  • May be able to drive an adapted vehicle

C7 Cervical Nerve Injury

  • May be able to straighten the arm and have normal shoulder movement
  • Some finger extension
  • May need assistance 
  • May be able to drive an adapted vehicle

C8 Cervical Nerve Injury

  • May be able to grasp and release objects with the hand
  • May need assistance
  • May be able to drive an adapted vehicle

Quadriplegic Injury Treatment

Treatment and recovery of a cervical spinal injury causing quadriplegia can initially focus on stabilization of the area, to reduce any additional damage. However, most cervical spine injuries causing tetraplegia are permanent. Steroidal drugs or anti-inflammatory drugs can reduce swelling to reduce the risk of secondary damage. 

Rehabilitation generally focuses on using the non-paralyzed parts of the body to gain some level of independence. This can take a long time, and include learning to use a motorized wheelchair, communication, daily care, mental health counseling, and dietary and lifestyle modifications. Caregivers and family members are often involved in rehabilitation and education. 

Long-Term Effects of Quadriplegia

According to the NSCISC, the lifetime cost of a quadriplegic depends on age, health, education, neurological impairment, and pre-injury employment history. Estimated costs of the injury are: 

  • 25-year-old high quadriplegic: over $5.1 million
  • 50-year-old high quadriplegic: over $2.8 million
  • 25-year-old low quadriplegic: over $3.7 million
  • 50-year-old low quadriplegic: nearly $2.3 million

Individuals with quadriplegia also have a much lower life expectancy. In the short term, the greatest risk of death for spinal cord injuries include pneumonia and septicemia. For similar reasons, re-hospitalization is common for quadriplegics. About 30% of people with a spinal cord injury are re-hospitalized one or more times per year following the injury. Common reasons for hospital admission include: 

  • Genitourinary diseases
  • Skin diseases
  • Respiratory diseases
  • Digestive problems
  • Circulatory conditions 
  • Musculoskeletal diseases

Quadriplegia Caused by Medical Malpractice  

Some paralysis is not caused by disease or car accidents but is caused by medical errors. If a doctor, surgeon, or healthcare professional fails to follow the proper procedures, it can cause serious injury, including paralysis. Some examples of medical negligence that could lead to quadriplegia include: 

Quadriplegic Modifications for Home, Work, and Transport

Quadriplegia may require extensive modifications for the individual’s life outside of the hospital. This includes modifications to the home, workplace, and transportation. Home modifications to accommodate quadriplegia may include: 

  • Removing doors
  • Widening doorways
  • Adjustable beds
  • Ramps up any steps 
  • Installing grab bars in the bathroom, 
  • Piping insulation on exposed pipes,
  • Showers equipped for quadriplegia
  • Elevators

Depending on the extent of paralysis, quadriplegics may be able to operate an electric wheelchair by using a head control, mouth stick, or chin control. With lower cervical spinal injury, an individual may be able to drive using adaptive driving equipment.

Quadriplegic Injury Claims and Malpractice Attorneys

At Gilman & Bedigian, we will use our experience, knowledge, and dedication to fight for you to receive the compensation you and your family deserve. Our aggressive trial lawyers have helped our clients recover millions of dollars in compensation related to quadriplegia and paralysis caused by an injury, accident, or medical error. Contact us online or call our law office at (800) 529-6162 for a free consultation.

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