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What should you know about quadriplegia?

Quadriplegia is also known as tetraplegia. It's a type of paralysis that results in the total or partial loss of sensation or movement in the limbs. The torso is usually also affected. Paraplegia is similar, but it only affects the waist down, not the arms.

Tetraparesis or quadriparesis, two other terms you may see if you have lost sensation, means that you have muscle weakness affecting all four of your limbs.

How do quadriplegic symptoms happen?

Injuries resulting in quadriplegia occur because of damage to the spinal cord near or through the cervical area. Although quadriplegia and tetraplegia seem unrelated, one is a term more often used overseas, while quadriplegia is commonly used in the United States. Both conditions refer to being unable to use all four limbs due to injury. It can refer to the partial or full loss of sensation or movement in the limbs.

Quadriplegia is normally caused by damage to the C1 through C7 vertebrae, impacting the spinal cord. The injury, which is called a legion, causes partial or total losses of function. Not all quadriplegics have the same sensations or lack thereof, even though most people assume all quadriplegics are fully paralyzed without sensation.

Injuries that occur above the C-4 level may require the patient to use a ventilator or electrical implant. These help the patient breathe, since the body cannot send signals to do so naturally. The majority of spinal injuries of all types result in a loss of controlled function below the point of injury. That could include the organs, depending on where the injury takes place.

Source: Disabled World, "What is Quadriplegia: Quadriplegic Facts and Definition," accessed April 20, 2018

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