PARAPLEGIA or QUADRIPLEGIA
DESCRIPTIONParaplegia is partial or complete paralysis of both legs. Quadriplegia is partial or complete paralysis of both arms and both legs. The spinal cord and all body parts below the spinal-cord damage are involved.
Appropriate health care includes:
Physician's monitoring of general condition and medications.
Surgery to limit further spinal-cord damage, or to remove bones or a tumor.
Time in an extended-care facility or nursing home (sometimes).
Psychotherapy or counseling for depression or for sexual problems.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMSLoss of movement and sensation in affected arms or legs.
Loss of urinary and bowel control.
Loss of normal blood pressure.
Loss of body-temperature control.
Impaired sexual function.
The following vary, depending on the site and extent of your child's spinal-cord damage:
Paraplegia is caused by spinal-cord damage in the back. Quadriplegia is caused by spinal-cord damage in the neck. Spinal-cord damage results from accidents, spinal-cord tumors, or birth defects.
RISK FACTORSSports or other activities with a high risk of injury.
Excess alcohol consumption or drug use, which increase the risk of accidents--especially vehicle accidents.
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCEInstructions for your child:
Observe safety precautions and don't take risks.
Don't dive into shallow swimming pools or into water of unknown depth.
Don't drink alcohol or use mind-altering drugs and drive.
Use seat belts in cars.
Wear protective headgear during contact sports or while riding a bicycle or motorcycle.
Your own observation of symptoms.
Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
Laboratory studies of blood and urine.
Special studies that may include ultrasonography, CAT or CT scan, MRI, and radionuclide scan (See Glossary for all).
POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONSKidney infections, especially if a urinary catheter is needed; lung infections; fecal impaction; pressure sores; deep-vein blood clots; depression.
Depends on the extent of your child's injury. A damaged spinal cord is limited in its ability to recover from injury. With rehabilitation, uninjured areas can take over some lost functions.
If someone is in an accident and has neck pain or possible spinal-cord injury, don't move the person unless absolutely necessary. Immobilize the neck with splints or pillows to avoid movement and additional damage until Emergency Medical Services arrive.
If your child has had a spinal-cord injury, family and friends need to offer emotional support. Encourage the child not to be afraid to ask for help.
Put thigh-length elastic stockings on your child during convalescence--and knee-length stockings later--to reduce the chance of deep-vein blood clots.
Let your child sleep on a waterbed or egg-crate foam mattress to reduce the chance of pressure sores.
MEDICATIONAntibiotics to fight infection. Urinary-tract infections are most common.
Stool softeners and laxatives to prevent constipation.
No medication can heal a damaged spinal cord. Your doctor may prescribe:
Encourage your child to stay as active as strength and condition allow. The body can be retrained to compensate for or restore some lost functions.
DIET & FLUIDSServe the child a high-fiber diet to prevent constipation.
If your child has a urinary catheter, urge the child to drink up to 16 glasses of water a day to prevent bladder stones and urinary-tract infections.
OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?Yes, after special rehabilitation. Encourage your child to try to stay in life's mainstream.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF
You observe signs of a neck or spine injury in your child.
Signs of infection occur during treatment. These include fever, chills, cloudy urine, muscle aches, and headache.