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What complications can follow a spinal cord injury?

A spinal cord injury is one of the most catastrophic types of events the human body can endure — and the consequences generally last a lifetime. In fact, complications can continue to occur long after the initial accident.

Here are some potential complications of a spinal injury that victims and their caregivers should know about:


Osteoporosis (or the less severe osteopenia) is a loss of bone density that can occur over time. Contributing factors are steroid medications — which may be used to treat swelling in spine injuries — and a lack of physical activity. Osteoporosis can make a victim more likely to develop additional spinal fractures or other broken bones.

Blood clots

Blood clots are a serious concern with any victim who is unable to ambulate on their own, whether he or she is confined to a bed or wheelchair. The lack of proper circulation can lead to a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in the legs that can ultimately dislodge and travel to the heart, brain or lungs.

Blood pressure changes

Depending on the location of a victim’s injury, his or her blood pressure can be affected by something as simple as a position change. Orthostatic hypotension is severe low blood pressure and autonomic dysreflexia is severe high blood pressure. Both are medical emergencies.


Victims who are paralyzed from the chest area down may have difficulty breathing deeply — and that can contribute to problems clearing their lungs of mucus. A bacterial cold or virus can quickly turn into a serious respiratory infection that’s life-threatening.

If you’ve suffered a severe spinal injury or care for someone who has, find out how you can recognize the early warning signs for these problems and mitigate their risks. The more you know, the more prepared you’ll be to handle the problems that arise. Similarly, find out as much as you can about your legal options following an accident.