When a person experiences a traumatic brain or spinal cord injury in a car accident, he or she may suffer from paralysis. With this condition, the muscles no longer respond to messages from the brain. 

Learn more about the required medical treatment and potential outcomes if you or a loved one becomes partially or fully paralyzed. 

Emergency care 

Immediately after this type of injury, the person should receive medical care at a Level 1 trauma center. Specialized doctors and surgeons will administer medications to relieve pain, resolve infection and limit further damage to the spinal cord. Sometimes, the injury requires traction or sedation. Once the patient becomes stable, the health care team will use imaging tests and other diagnostics to determine the extent of paralysis. 

Surgical treatment 

Some surgeries take place immediately after the accident, while doctors delay other procedures until the patient becomes stable. Surgery after spinal cord injury can repair fractures, relieve pressure on the spinal cord, and remove debris such as bone fragments and foreign objects. The injury may require spinal fusion when vertebrae become unstable. 

Physical and occupational rehabilitation 

After surgery, physical rehabilitation can help the person regain strength, while occupational therapy helps a paralyzed patient adjust to the injury and learn to perform activities of daily living independently. Physical and occupational therapists also help individuals who have paralysis learn to use medical devices such as wheelchairs. 

Associated conditions 

Many people who become paralyzed develop related health conditions that require ongoing care. These issues may include: 

  • Ventilator assistance to breathe when the injury affects chest muscles 
  • Blood clots related to a sedentary lifestyle 
  • Depression and mental health concerns related to the dramatic change in life circumstances 
  • An abrupt, life-threatening rise in blood pressure called autonomic dysreflexia 
  • Low blood pressure 
  • Pressure sores and other skin issues 
  • Urinary tract and bladder infections 
  • Spasticity 
  • Chronic pain 
  • Incontinence 

The cost of medical treatment after a spinal cord injury is astronomical. When another person caused an auto accident resulting in a catastrophic injury, the court may hold him or her personally responsible for these and other associated expenses.