Key Difference – Paraplegic vs Quadriplegic
Paraplegia and quadriplegia are two paralysis conditions caused by damages to the central nervous system. Paraplegia is the paralysis of the lower extremities of the body (below the waist) due to an injury to the spinal cord below the T1 level. Quadriplegia, on the other hand, is the paralysis of all four limbs including the trunk following an injury affecting the cervical spinal segments. This is the key difference between paraplegic and quadriplegic.
1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What is Paraplegia
3. What is Quadriplegia
4. Similarities Between Paraplegic and Quadriplegic
5. Side by Side Comparison – Paraplegic vs Quadriplegic in Tabular Form
What is Paraplegia?
Paraplegia is the paralysis of the lower extremities of the body because of an injury to the spinal cord below the T1 level. Paraplegics have the complete control over their arms and hands. The degree of paralysis of the lower extremities depends on the nature of the spinal injury. In some patients, both sensory and motor components are impaired while in some others only minor sensory impairments are manifested. An important fact to be emphasized is that the legs of a paraplegic patient are usually healthy and the pathology lies in either the brain or the spinal cord which fails to control the legs appropriately.
Paraplegia caused by some conditions can be transient. Therefore, it is not a wise action to make a diagnosis of paraplegia immediately after an injury.
Causes of Paraplegia
- Iatrogenic causes
- Post partum hemorrhage or any other cause that decreases the perfusion to the brain and spinal cord
- Autoimmune disorders
- Hereditary causes
- Meningitis, encephalitis or other infections affecting the central nervous system
- Any tumors or pathological conditions in the adjacent structures that compress the brain or the spinal cord.
Impact of Paraplegia on the Patient
- Paraplegia has a negative effect on the patient’s mind set. As a physician, it is important to pay attention to the physical, mental and social well-being of the patient during the management.
- The loss of sensations increases the chance of mechanical injuries.
- Suppression of the immune system increases the likelihood of secondary infections.
Treatment of Paraplegia
- In most occasions, complete recovery from paraplegia cannot be expected.
- If possible, surgical interventions are attempted to correct the deformity at the site of injury.
- Anticoagulants and prophylactic drugs are given to minimize thrombosis and opportunistic infections respectively.
What is Quadriplegia?
Quadriplegia is the paralysis of all four limbs including the trunk because of an injury affecting the cervical spinal segments. Similar to paraplegia, the limbs in quadriplegia are usually healthy, and the problem lies in the central nervous system.
- Iatrogenic causes
- Tumors and other pathological growths that compress the brain or the spinal cord
- Infections of the central nervous system
- Congenital causes
Impact of Quadriplegia on the Body
- Mental instability
- Urinary and fecal incontinence
- Secondary infections
- Chronic pain
- Spasticity and fasciculations
- Sexual dysfunction
- Weight gain
How to Take Care of a Paraplegic or a Quadriplegic patient?
- Bladder management – Initially the patient has no control over the bladder, and this results in urinary incontinence. Eventually, the patient develops reflex bladder emptying by adjusting the abdominal pressure. But the bladder is not completely emptied most of the time leading to urinary retention. This increases the risk of urinary tract infections and chronic kidney failure.
- Bowel function – Manual evacuation of the bladder content is required immediately after the onset of the condition. The patient develops reflex emptying with time.
- Skin care – Regular turning and cleanliness are extremely important to prevent the occurrence of bed sores which can have fatal consequences.
- Lower limbs – Passive physiotherapy is given to prevent the development of contractures. Muscle spasticity and fasciculations can be minimized by the administration of muscle relaxants such as baclofen.
- Rehabilitation –Special facilities are available nowadays to empower the affected individuals to carry out their day to day activities by themselves.This aims at improving the confidence of the patient.
What are the Similarities Between Paraplegic and Quadriplegic?
- Both conditions are due to the damages to the central nervous system that results in the loss of control over the limbs and torso.
- Both paraplegia and quadriplegia have a negative impact on the patient’s mentality.
What is the Difference Between Paraplegic and Quadriplegic?
Paraplegic vs Quadriplegic
|Paraplegia is the paralysis of the lower extremities of the body (below the waist) due to an injury to the spinal cord below the T1 level.||Quadriplegia is the paralysis of all four limbs including the trunk following an injury affecting the cervical spinal segments.|
|Only the lower extremities (below the waist line) are affected.||All four limbs including the torso are affected.|
|Paraplegia is usually because of an injury affecting the spinal segments below T1 level.||Quadriplegia is because of an injury affecting the cervical spinal segments.|
Summary – Paraplegic vs Quadriplegic
Paraplegia is the paralysis of the lower extremities of the body following an injury to the brain or the spinal cord below the T1 level. Quadriplegia is the paralysis of both upper limbs and lower limbs including the torso due to an injury to the brain or the cervical segments of the spinal cord. This is the main difference between paraplegia and quadriplegia. Although these conditions are not curable most of the time, the patients’ standard of living can be immensely improved to give them the confidence to look at the future hopefully.
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1. Kumar, Parveen J., and Michael L. Clark. Kumar & Clark clinical medicine. Edinburgh: W.B. Saunders, 2009. Print.