Paraplegia is a condition in which the lower part of a patient’s body is paralyzed and cannot move. Paraplegia is often caused by an injury to the spinal cord, such as those resulting from a motor vehicle accident, gunshot wounds and falls. Paraplegia can also be caused by non-traumatic factors such as spinal tumors, scoliosis, and spina bifida. Immediately after the spinal cord injury, the loss of movement, sensation, and reflexes below the level of the spinal cord injury can occur. Sexual dysfunction and loss of bowel and bladder control may also occur, depending on where the spinal cord injury occurred and if the spinal cord was completely cut or partially cut. Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment at this time to reverse paraplegia. Instead, treatment is aimed at problems associated with paraplegia.
People with paraplegia and other spinal cord injuries are more likely to get viruses or diseases than the average person. For example, pneumonia and septicemia are frequent causes of death for people with spinal cord injuries. Pneumonia is inflammation of the lungs due to infection. Septicemia is poisoning of the blood due to an infection that has spread throughout the body.
Another cause of death frequently seen in people with paraplegia is due to a pulmonary embolism. A pulmonary embolism is a blockage of an artery that goes from the heart to the lungs. The blockage is due to a mass of blood, known as a blood clot. The condition can be life threatening because it can lead to the inability to breathe. Blood clots are most likely to form when circulation is limited. Circulation improves when the muscles move. Because there is a loss of the ability to move the leg muscles in paraplegia, there is always the risk of a blood clot traveling from a vein in the leg to the heart. People with quadriplegia are at a much greater risk of suffering from these complications than those suffering from paraplegia.
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