Tetraplegia, also known as quadriplegia, is paralysis caused by an illness (such as transverse myelitis or polio) or trauma (car crash, fall or sports injury) that results in the loss of movement in all four limbs and the torso. Usually, the paralysis affects not only movement, but the senses as well. Sensory loss may include numbness, reduced sensation or sore pain.
Quadriplegia is generally caused by damage to the brain or spinal cord. In cases involving the spinal cord, the problem is localized to the cervical area (upper part of the spine) between the vertebrae C1 and C7. The resulting impairment (usually partial or total loss of function in the arms and legs) depends on the part of the spinal cord injured and the amount of damage it has done. Also, it is not uncommon to have fully functional arm movement but not nervous control of the fingers. This is dependent on the degree of damage done to the spinal cord.
Quadriplegia can cause various complications such as pain, blood clots, ulcers, muscle spasms, pressure sores, autonomic dysreflexia, breathing difficulties and loss of bladder and bowel control.
It is important to treat the loss of function and sensitivity of the limbs as much as possible in order to prevent further damage.
What diseases may be associated with quadriplegia?
Diseases that may be associated with quadriplegia include the following:
- Multiple sclerosis
Keep in mind that this list is not exhaustive and it is always a good idea to consult with a doctor regarding any questions, concerns, or if symptoms persist.
What are possible treatment options for quadriplegia?
The most effective treatment option in case of quadriplegia depends on the specific needs of the patient as well as the nature and severity of the individual’s condition. Prompt treatment of quadriplegia consists of treating the spinal cord injury or other condition causing the problem. Special equipment may be used to alleviate the heart rate, blood pressure, and assist with the breathing mechanism through the use of a flexible tube (inserted in the throat). The ultimate goal is to prevent further complications and allow the individual to resume with his or her active lifestyle within the limits imposed by their condition.
Surgery may also be needed to relieve pressure on the spine from bone fragments or other objects. It can help stabilize the spine, though no form of surgery can help fully repair the damaged nerves of the spinal cord. Some patients can still recover several segments, especially when treated shortly after sustaining an injury.
Generally, the overall treatment aims to remedy the loss of function and sensitivity of the limbs and other organs. For example, damage above the vertebra C4 may require treatment through the use of a breathing apparatus. This is due to the fact that the diaphragm is controlled by spinal nerves exiting at the upper level of the neck.
When is it advised to consult with a doctor regarding Quadriplegia?
In the case of quadriplegia, regular medical appointments with a doctor are required to examine the individual’s condition. In cases of sudden loss in the use of the limbs, immediately contacting emergency services is highly advised.