Quadriplegia and Paraplegia
How to Say It: KWOD-ra-plee-gia, PA-ra-plee-gia
by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Paralysis is a problem moving the body due to disease or injury to the nervous system. There are two types:
Paraplegia happens when there is damage below the neck. Quadriplegia happens when the damage is at the base of the neck or skull.
The most common cause is trauma, such as from a sports injury, car accident, or fall. Other causes are:
Things that may raise the risk of these problems are:
Paralysis may be total or partial. It depends on how much of the spinal cord is damaged. Other problems may be:
Inactivity can lead to other problems, such as:
People may also become depressed because of:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. Many health specialists will be involved in the diagnosis.
Blood tests will be done. The fluid around the brain and spine may also be tested. This can be done with a lumbar puncture.
Images may need to be taken of the spine. This can be done with:
Nerve function may be tested. This can be done with:
Emergency care will be needed. It can prevent further damage. Choices are:
Therapy will be needed to improve function and quality of life. Choices are:
Paraplegia is often due to accidents that cannot be prevented.
Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation
Muscular Dystrophy Association
Canadian Paraplegic Association (Manitoba)
Eckert MJ, Martin MJ. Trauma: Spinal Cord Injury. Surg Clin North Am. 2017 Oct;97(5):1031-1045.
Management of chronic spinal cord injury. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/management-of-chronic-spinal-cord-injury. Accessed January 27, 2021.
Spinal cord injury information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Spinal-Cord-Injury-Information-Page. Accessed January 27, 2021.
Last reviewed December 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated: 1/27/2021