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Severity of spinal cord injuries

Because of the possible effects, spinal cord injuries are generally serious. However, they range in severity relative to one another.

One way of categorizing spinal cord injuries is whether they are complete, completely interrupting nerve signals, or incomplete, allowing some nerve signals to get through. However, there are other, even more specific ways to categorize spinal cord injuries.

What are spinal contusions or concussions?

A spinal concussion is similar to one affecting the brain, while a spinal contusion is bruising of the spinal cord. Either may result in complete or incomplete paralysis. However, according to the American Association of  Neurological Surgeons, the effect is transient and resolves on its own within a matter of days.

What is the ASIA grading scale?

The American Spinal Injury Association uses a grading scale that assigns a letter to an injury. Each letter corresponds to a description of the injury’s severity.

A normal spine is an E on the ASIA scale. An ASIA D is the least severe form of injury. It is an incomplete injury with some movement still possible. A person with an ASIA D injury has the ability to lift most muscle groups against the force of gravity. The most severe type of injury on the scale is an ASIA A, a complete spinal cord injury with neither motor nor sensory function remaining.

The ASIA B is a unique situation. It involves a complete loss of motor function but an incomplete sensory injury, meaning that the limb retains some ability to feel.

Generally speaking, the less severe a spinal cord injury, the better the chance for at least some recovery.