These injuries occur in the lower thoracic region of the spinal cord, and can result in either complete or incomplete paraplegia, in which the voluntary movement and sensation in the areas of the body below the point of injury are compromised. The hands are not affected, and some function below the point of injury may be retained depending upon the exact location of the injury.
Complete and Incomplete Injuries
T-9 to T-12 injuries can be classified as either complete or incomplete injuries. Complete injuries result in the total loss of movement and sensation below the point of injury, while incomplete injuries indicate that some function below the level of injury is retained.
Effects of T-9 to T-12 Injuries
Survivors with T-9 to T-12 injuries typically have control of their hands and arms, as well as good control of their abdominal muscles and trunk. Control of the hip flexors and legs is compromised, but sitting balance is usually good. At this level, functional independence is likely. Other effects of T-9 to T-12 injuries may include:
- Bowel and bladder dysfunction
- Sexual dysfunction
- Difficulty regulating heart rate, blood pressure, sweating, and body temperature
- Neuropathic pain
- Muscle atrophy
- Gallbladder and renal stones
Treatment for T-9 to T-12 Injuries
Immediate medical intervention following the injury will increase the likelihood of the best possible long-term prognosis. In most cases, the acute stage of injury is followed by extensive rehabilitation, which is designed to help the survivor adapt both physically and mentally to his or her new condition. While their lives will certainly be different than they were before the injury, with the correct intervention, support, and assistive technology, survivors with T-9 to T-12 injuries can go on to functionally independent and very fulfilling lives. In the meantime, scientists continue to study treatments for, designed to both reduce the effect of the injury and promote the growth of functional nerve fibers.