Quadriplegia is a condition that results in paralysis of the extremities from an injury of the neck. It can also be called Tetraplegia. It can be qualified as partial or complete.

More often than not – Quadriplegia (paralysis of four limbs) is complete loss of four extremities.

Paraplegia is similar but it does not affect the arms.

The loss of function is classified as both sensory and motor. This means that both movement and sensation are affected and lost. Injury is also called a Lesion

It is a misconception that all Victims cannot move their legs or arms. Sometimes they can walk because only a small lesion is present. Others may use wheelchairs while others are much more serious.

On average – there are 4,500-5,000 new spinal cord injuries every year in the United States.

There are between 900 and 1,000 injures in the United Kingdom every year.


–  It is usually damage to Brain or Spinal Cord.
–  If spinal cord involvement – the neck or C1-C7 are affected.
–  C1-C4 usually affects arm movement more than C5-C7

1.) Trauma

–  Car Accident
–  A fall
–  Diving into shallow water
–  Sports injury
–  And many more types of Trauma

2.)  Diseases

–  Multiples Sclerosis
–  Polio
–  Transverse myelitis

3.)  Congenital Disorders

–  Muscular Dystrophy

*** Not all broken necks will lead to paraplegia

–  If vertebrae become fractured or dislocated but spinal cord is not affected or damaged – then symptoms of paralysis may never be seen.
–  If spinal cord injury with or without a fracture or dislocation – this may lead to paralysis symptoms.


A) Complete – No Motor or Sensory Function in S4-S5

B) Incomplete –  Sensory Function but no Motor Function below Neurological level including S4-S5

C) Incomplete – Some Motor Function below Neurological Level. More than Half of key muscles involved have muscle grade less than 3

D) Incomplete – Some Motor Function below Neurological Level. More than Half of key muscles involved have muscle grade of 3 or more.

E) Normal – Motor and Sensory Function are normal


Obvious Symptoms

–  Impairment of limbs

Additional Findings

–  Loss or limited function of torso
–  Loss or limited function of bladder
–  Loss or limited function of bowl
–  Loss or limited function of sexual function
–  Loss or limited function of digestion
–  Loss or limited function of breathing
–  Feeling of numbness
–  Burning Neuropathic pain

Symptoms Related Consequences

–  Pressure sores can follow
–  Osteoporosis can follow
–  Increased risk for bone fractures
–  Frozen joints
–  Breathing infections
–  Shortness of breath
–  Increased risk of infections
–  DVT – Deep Vein Thrombosis
–  Shaking
–  Heart problems
–  Much more

ianwithmedals-2Need for a Ventilator

–  A ventilator is a machine that is designed to mechanically move breathable air in and out of the lungs.
–  The patient is often unable to do this on there own.
–  The patient breathing rate may be too low to be effective – a ventilator is next step.
–  Usually a lesion or injury at C1 (the highest Cervical or neck Vertebra)
–  Loss of function from neck down is seen

Extent of Injury

–  It is important to understand Extent of injury
–  A complete severing of spinal cord will result in complete loss of function from that vertebra down.
–  A partial severing of spinal cord will result in a varied amount of function and loss.
–  As stated before – It can be a misconception that Victim can’t move legs or arms.


–  It is estimated that a person around the age of 25 with a spinal cord injury will cost over 1 million dollars in there lifetime.
–  5.6-6.0 billion dollars are spent in the United States every year.
–  Ventilator costs is nearly 500,000 per year for those requiring this treatment.


–  Worse outcome is seen for those who are not diagnosis immediately after injury.
–  Some of this problem can be location (physically – like after a rock fall) and time to get to the injured person.
–  In some cases – a cervical cord injury is missed and further damage can be done.
–  Although rare – and even in severe cases – some movement – through rehab and surgery – can be restored or seen.
–  Often activities of daily living, eating, dressing, and other activities will require secondary help.
–  Depression, anxiety, weight loss or weight gain can be seen.
–  Atrophy or muscle wasting can be seen.
–  Some “less severe” cases can live independently.