What Does “Complete” and “Incomplete” Mean?

Depending on the damage to the spinal cord nerves, the result is considered a complete or an incomplete lesion. Paraplegia is considered complete if no motor or sensory functions can be clinically determined below the lesion caused by the damage. As long as sensory and/or motor functions are detectable, the lesion is considered incomplete.

Neurological examinations enable the physician to locate the damage and determine its extent. The physician uses two international scales for this purpose  – the American Spinal Injury Association Impairment Scale (AIS), often referred to as ASIA scale, and the "Scale for the Autonomic Nervous System". The use of these scales are dependent on an exact assessment of the injury, the person's sustained sensory and motor functions, the injury level and the degree of lesion  – all of which help to forecast the possible impact on the person's daily living.

Literature

  • Chin LS, Mesfin FB, Dawodu ST. Spinal cord injuries: Practice essentials, background, anatomy,  pathophysiology, etiology, epidemiology, prognosis, patient education. [Internet] 10 August 2017. Available from: http://www.emedicine.com/pmr/topic182.htm. Accessed March 2018.
  • Swiss Paraplegic Research. Community. [Wiki/Body & complications]. Spinal cord injury - What does this mean?  Basic knowledge about the injured body. [Internet] March 2018. Available from: https://community.paraplegie.ch/. Accessed March 2018.
  • Shepherd Center. Understanding spinal cord injury: What you should know about spinal cord injury and recovery. 2018. [Internet]  Available from: http://www.spinalinjury101.org/details/levels-of-injury. Accessed March 2018.

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