What is it?
Quadriplegia is characterized by involvement of the four limbs (two upper limbs and two lower limbs). It is defined as paralysis of the arms and legs caused by lesions in the spinal cord. The sequelae may be more or less important depending on the location of the vertebral lesions.
It is a motor impairment that can be total or partial, transient or permanent. This motor impairment is usually accompanied by sensory disturbances or tone disorders.
Symptoms of Tetraplegia
Quadriplegia is paralysis of the lower and upper limbs. This is characterized by an absence of movements due to lesions at the muscular levels and / or at the level of the nervous system allowing their operation.
The spinal cord is characterized by a network of communicating nerves. These allow the transmission of information from the brain to the members. Lesions at this “communication network” therefore cause a break in the transmission of information. Since the information transmitted is both motor and sensory, these lesions cause not only motor disturbances (slowing of muscle movements, absence of muscle movements, etc.) but also sensory disturbances. This nervous network also allows some control in the urinary tract, intestines or genito-sexual system, these diseases in the spinal cord can lead to incontinence, transit disorders, disorders erection, etc.
Quadriplegia is also marked by cervical disorders. These lead to paralysis of the respiratory muscles (abdominal and intercostal) that can lead to respiratory fragility or even respiratory failure.
The origins of the disease
The origins of quadriplegia are spinal cord injuries.
The spine is a “canal.” The spinal cord is located within this canal and is part of the central nervous system and plays a fundamental role in transmitting information from the brain to the brain. This information can be muscular, sensory or hormonal.When a lesion occurs in this part of the body, the nearby nerve structures can no longer function. The muscles and organs controlled by these deficient nerves also become dysfunctional.
These lesions in the spinal cord can result from trauma such as road accidents.
Accidents related to sports can also be the cause of quadriplegia. This is particularly the case during some falls, when diving in deep water, etc.
In another context, certain pathologies and infections are capable of developing an underlying tetraplegia. This is the case of malignant or benign tumors that compress the spinal cord.
Infections of the spinal cord, such as:
– spondylolisthesis: infection of one or more intervertebral disk ;
epiduritis: infection of the epidural tissue (tissues surrounding the cord);
– Pott’s disease: intervertebral infection caused by the bacillus of Koch (bacteria causing Tuberculosis);
– malformations related to poor circulation of cerebrospinal fluid (syringomyelia);
– myelitis (inflammation of the spinal cord) such as multiple sclerosis is also a source of development of quadriplegia.
Finally, circulatory disorders, such as epidural hematoma resulting from treatment with anticoagulants or appearing after a lumbar puncture, compressing the marrow, can be at the origin of a development of paralysis of four members.
Risk factors for Tetraplegia
Risk factors related to spinal cord injury and quadriplegia development are most commonly road and sport-related injuries.
On the other hand, people suffering from infections such as spondylolisthesis, epiduritis or infection with bacillus Koch in the spine, subjects with myelitis, vascular problems or malformations limiting the good circulation of cerebrospinal fluid, are more subject to the development of quadriplegia.
Prevention and treatment of Tetraplegia
The diagnosis must be made as soon as possible. Brain or bone marrow imaging (MRI Magnetic Resonance Imaging) is the first prescribed examination to be performed.
The exploration of the muscular and nervous systems is carried out by a lumbar puncture. This allows the collection of cerebrospinal fluid to analyze it. Or again, the electromyogram (EMG), analyzing the passage of nerve information between nerves and muscles.
The treatment of tetraplegia strongly depends on the original cause of paralysis.
Medical treatment is often not enough. This paralysis of the four limbs requires a muscular rehabilitation or even a neurosurgical intervention.
The help of a person is often required for the person with quadriplegia.
Disability situations being very numerous, the care is therefore different depending on the level of dependence of the person. An occupational therapist may then be required to support the subject’s rehabilitation.