Classification of Spinal Cord Injuries - Topic Overview
Spinal cord injuries (SCIs) can be
classified based on function (how much feeling and movement you have) or on
where the damage occurred. When a nerve in the spinal cord is injured, the
nerve location and number are often used to describe how much damage there is.
For example, a C7 injury is associated with the seventh cervical nerve of the
neck and its effect on feeling and movement. Saying you are a C7 communicates
that you can feed yourself and partially dress yourself but may need help
bathing, and so on. C7 is known as the functional level of injury. These
classifications are often used by people who have SCIs to describe
spinal cord is surrounded by protective rings of bone called
vertebrae. The vertebrae and spinal nerves are
segments , starting at the top of the spinal cord. Within each segment, the vertebrae and nerves are numbered. The segments are as follows:
- Cervical. The neck area contains 7 cervical vertebrae (C1 through
C7) and 8 cervical nerves (C1 through C8). Cervical SCIs usually cause loss of
function in the chest, arms, and legs. Cervical injuries can also affect
breathing and bowel and bladder control.
- Thoracic. The chest area
contains 12 thoracic vertebrae (T1 through T12) and 12 thoracic nerves (T1
through T12). The first thoracic vertebra, T1, is the vertebra where the top
rib attaches to the spine. Thoracic SCIs usually affect the chest and the legs.
Injuries to the upper thoracic area can affect breathing. Thoracic injuries can
also affect bowel and bladder control.
- Lumbar. The lumbar area
(between the chest area and the pelvis) contains 5 lumbar vertebrae (L1 through
L5) and 5 lumbar nerves (L1 through L5). Lumbar SCIs usually affect the hips
and legs. Lumbar injuries can also affect bowel and bladder
- Sacral. The sacral area (from the pelvis to the end of the
spine) contains 5 sacral vertebrae (S1 through S5) and 5 sacral nerves (S1
through S5). Sacral SCIs also usually affect the hips and legs. Injuries to the
upper sacral area can also affect bowel and bladder control.