Spinal injury is the single biggest cause of disability in the UK. Spinal disorders are the most common single cause of lost working days in the country, accounting for 67 million days, which is thought to represent an annual cost in lost production of £3 billion.
Spinal injury can lead to other complications including:
- Respiratory complications - when the breathing muscles are paralysed either totally or partially, in some cases artificial ventilation is required and infections can be common and dangerous.
- Urinary tract infections - as a result of using catheters are both common and potentially dangerous.
- Chronic, intractable pain - which can be very difficult to treat.
- Spasticity - injuries to the cord can increase muscle tone, which leads to either spasms (involuntary muscle jerking) or spasticity (muscle tension causing chronic folding up of the limbs). Sometimes a contracture will develop, meaning that the patient will be able to bend but not straighten a limb, so that it is held in the flexed position.
In the legal process, injuries to the spine fall into two separate categories, those which result in paralysis and those which do not.