Paraplegia vs. Quadriplegia/Tetraplegia

There two main types of paralysis: paraplegia and quadriplegia. Quadriplegia is also sometimes referred to as tetraplegia.

A little while ago we talked about the four segments of the spine, and how each of those segments has an impact on different parts of the body. Before we go any further, I want you to take another look at the chart above that shows the different segments of the spinal cord. If the survivor has sustained an injury that is below the first thoracic spinal nerve, this will result in paraplegia, the loss of sensation or movement—to some degree—in the legs, bowel, bladder, and sexual region. Many people associate paraplegia with a total loss of feeling and movement in the legs, but this simply isn’t true. The definition of paraplegia is fairly wide, and paraplegics can experience anything from a slight impairment of leg movement to complete loss of leg movement all the way up to the chest. Paraplegics can move their arms and hands.

Let’s take another look at our chart. If the spinal cord injury occurs above the first thoracic vertebra, the result is quadriplegia, which, I mentioned earlier, is sometimes also called tetraplegia. Quadriplegia is paralysis to some degree in all four limbs. In this type of paralysis, the abdominal and chest muscles can also be affected, resulting in difficulty breathing, coughing, or clearing the chest. Some quadriplegics may require a ventilator to breathe. In some cases of quadriplegia, arm and hand movement is possible.