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Diagnosing Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal cord injuries or SCIs are typically classified as catastrophic injuries because they can cause significant pain and permanent disability. These cases are among the most difficult and most expensive to treat. Unfortunately, this means spinal cord injury claims are often difficult and time-consuming to settle fairly.

Despite popular misconception, spinal cord injuries are not always obvious, either. After a serious accident, a complete assessment and testing will be conducted to check for injuries to the spine. Once an injury is verified, it must be diagnosed and classified. When someone suffers an SCI, this diagnosis can predict long-term recovery and function.

Spinal Cord Injury Diagnosis

A spinal cord injury may be suspected if someone has suffered a pelvic fracture, a fall, a penetrating injury around the spine, or a head injury. Most SCIs are the result of traffic accidents. The initial assessment for a spinal cord injury will involve testing for movement and sensory function. When there are obvious signs of neurological injury or weakness, diagnostic tests like a spinal x-ray, myelogram, MRI, or CT scan may be used.

A few days after the injury, a full neurological exam will be conducted to determine the severity of the spinal cord injury and give a prognosis. This exam may involve a test of the patient's ability to sense light touch and muscle strength.

Classifications of Spinal Cord Injuries

During the diagnosis, a spinal cord injury is classified on a scale with five levels:

  • ASIA A: This refers to complete impairment with no sensory or motor function below the injury.
  • ASIA B: This is incomplete impairment with sensory function but no motor function.
  • ASIA C: This is incomplete impairment with motor function below the injury level. More than 50% of muscles beneath the injury have a muscle grade under 3 on a scale of 5, which is not strong enough to move opposite of gravity.
  • ASIA D: This is incomplete impairment that preserves motor function below the injury with at least 50% of key muscles under the level with a muscle grade more than 3.
  • ASIA E: This refers to an injury that does not impact sensory and motor functions.

Many spinal cord injuries require long-term treatment that may include intensive rehabilitation, occupational therapy, psychological treatment, and surgery. If you have suffered a spinal cord injury due to someone else's negligence or reckless actions, you may have the right to compensation for your injuries. SCI cases are notoriously complex and you will have an uphill battle against the insurance company for fair compensation. Contact Levine and Wiss to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.