How Does a Spinal Cord Injury Affect the Brain?

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A doctor reviews x-rays of a spinal cord injury and the brain.

One of the most catastrophic injuries that can be sustained by a human being is damage to the spinal cord. There is a possibility that these kinds of injuries will have long-term repercussions and problems that will fundamentally alter your life. Some injuries to the spinal cord are so debilitating that the victim is unable to return to their previous line of employment or to the hobbies that they formerly enjoyed. Even simple chores may become too difficult for you to complete, and as a result, you may find that you need to employ someone to look after both you and your property.

Sometimes the careless actions of a medical professional, motorist, or manufacturer are the direct cause of a spinal cord injury or a factor that contributed to the severity of the injury. In situations like these, filing a lawsuit may help you collect monetary compensation for your medical bills as well as your physical pain and mental anguish.

When the Spinal Cord Sustains an Injury, What Changes Take Place in the Body?

When the body experiences a spinal cord injury, the damaged portion of the spine will swell. When the spinal region becomes inflamed, blood flow to the nerve tissue may be inhibited, depriving the nerve tissue of essential oxygen. This may lead to a chain reaction of adverse events, including:

  • Self-destruction of nerve cells. Although there is no clear explanation for this medical phenomenon, it is not uncommon for spinal cord injury sites to undergo rapid, uncontrolled cellular death, compromising the spine’s structural integrity.
  • Compression. Following a spinal cord injury, swelling, bleeding, and excess fluid in and around the spinal cord can lead to further spinal cord compression and additional damage.
  • Free-radical damage. Inflammation due to a spinal cord injury inevitably leads to the release of free radicals in the body. Free radicals are highly reactive oxygen models that, when reacting with biological compounds in the body, can cause damage to healthy nerve cells.

What Kinds of Changes Can Be Expected in Brain Function Following a Spinal Cord Injury?

Inflammation is caused by a spinal cord injury, which can have repercussions throughout the neurological system and even in the brain. Even if your injury does not directly affect the brain, you may still find that you are suffering from cognitive symptoms such as problems with your memory and mental process, shifts in mood, and the ability to solve problems. It is believed that certain circumstances are to blame for these cognitive impairments.

The brain, not the spinal cord, controls cognitive processes such as attention, memory, decision-making, and problem-solving. Instead, the spinal cord serves as a channel for motor and sensory signals to go between the brain, peripheral nerves, and muscles. So, while cognition is not directly impacted by a spinal cord injury, mobility and sensation are. Up to 64% of people, according to studies on cognitive health following spinal cord injury, may have some sort of cognitive impairment. Additionally, it has been hypothesized that people with spinal cord injuries are almost 13 times more likely than healthy people to suffer from cognitive problems.

Although a spinal cord injury won’t immediately hinder your capacity to think properly, its downstream effects may have an impact. After a spinal cord injury, some factors may affect cognitive abilities. Cognitive problems can be a result of a spinal cord injury in a number of ways. We’ll talk about how secondary SCI effects can affect cognitive functions down below:

1. Mental Anxiety

Living with a spinal cord injury can be difficult, and this can put additional strain on a person’s mental health. According to studies, SCI survivors are more likely than the general population to experience psychological issues such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Although not all SCI survivors may experience mental health issues, it is crucial to be mindful of them.

2. Pain

Pain is one of the most frequent secondary consequences of spinal cord damage. Long-term discomfort might affect your ability to focus, listen, and feel centered. As a result, it may impair your capacity for concentration, sound judgment, and knowledge retention.

3. Sleep Issues

Many spinal cord injury sufferers have trouble falling asleep and sleeping through the night.

For instance, those with higher-level SCIs may have trouble breathing because their respiratory muscles’ motor function is compromised. As a result, individuals can develop sleep apnea, a disorder marked by irregular breathing while asleep. People who have sleep apnea frequently experience several nighttime awakenings. As previously indicated, problems falling asleep can also be caused by pain and psychological anguish. Cognitive processes like alertness, memory, and focus can be affected during the day by not getting enough sleep.

4. Pharmaceuticals

Taking several drugs may be necessary for treating spinal cord injury and its associated side effects. However, harmful side effects are frequent and can impair cognitive abilities. For instance, people may have memory loss or drowsiness.

5. Abuse of Alcohol and Other Drugs

While abusing alcohol or other substances may offer momentary solace, they can also have a long-term negative impact on cognitive abilities. The ends of neurons can be harmed by excessive alcohol consumption, which can affect how well brain cells communicate. Additionally, this study discovered a connection between alcohol consumption and hippocampus size, the area of the brain in charge of memory and learning. The likelihood of the hippocampus gradually shrinking increases with a person’s intake of alcohol.

6. Unhealthy Cardiovascular System

Due to physical immobility, many people with spinal cord injuries have erratic blood pressure. The volume of blood that can circulate throughout your body can be limited by poor cardiovascular health. Our bodies and minds are kept in top condition by the oxygen and nutrients that are abundant in the blood and fuel cellular activity. Brain fog and impaired cognitive function can result from poor blood supply to the brain.

7. Increasingly Isolated Social Behaviors and Sedentary Behaviors

People with spinal cord injuries are more likely to be less active and may also feel socially isolated as a result of the physical implications of the injury. A spinal cord injury may alter a person’s job, social life, and daily activities, which could lead to a decrease in physical activity and social involvement. Being physically and socially active generally helps to improve cognitive abilities, while becoming physically and socially inactive can have the opposite effect and cause cognitive deterioration.

Types of Spinal Cord Injury

What exactly is spinal cord damage? There are essentially two types of spinal cord injuries, complete and incomplete.

Complete Spinal Cord Injuries

Complete spinal cord injuries, which prevent the brain from sending impulses below the site of the injury, are the most severe type of spinal cord injury. For example, a lumbar spinal cord injury may cause paralysis below the waist while leaving your arms and upper body motor capabilities unaffected. But with total cervical spine injuries, this frequently results in a loss of upper- and lower-body motor function.

Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries

Compression or damage to the spinal cord that impairs the brain’s capacity to send impulses below the injury site frequently causes incomplete spinal cord injuries. Incomplete injuries vary greatly from patient to patient due to the extent of the spinal cord’s partially damaged state. Some people may have a little trouble with or even lose some of their sensory and motor functions.

Tatum & Atkinson, the Heavy Hitters Can Help

The skilled litigators at Tatum & Atkinson, ‘the Heavy Hitters,’ have an unrivaled track record of successfully representing clients in difficult personal injury matters, including litigation involving spinal cord injuries. We have been successful in various court cases worth multiple millions of dollars involving cases of this nature, thereby assisting the party that was unjustly injured in coping financially with the burden imposed by the negligence of others.

Get in touch with Tatum & Atkinson, ‘the Heavy Hitters,’ as soon as possible to discuss your situation. Claims for injuries to the spinal cord have a statute of limitations, so don’t procrastinate. Your initial consultation is completely free, and we will handle your case on a contingency fee basis. This implies that you won’t have to pay anything unless and until your case is successfully settled or litigated and won. Get in touch with the lawyers at Tatum & Atkinson, ‘the Heavy Hitters’ immediately to receive a free case evaluation.  Call us today at (800) 529-0804 or contact us online.