Spinal Cord Injuries Complaint - Queensland Medical Rights Solicitors

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If you think that you have received inadequate or negligent medical treatment for spinal cord injuries, our solicitors will be able to assist you in making a complaint to the Office of the Health Ombudsman (OHO) in Queensland. Our QLD based solicitors deal with health care complaints on a ‘pro bono’ basis and will not make any charge to you for advice on how to make a complaint to the Office of the Health Ombudsman. A complaint to the Office of the Health Ombudsman in QLD is not a medical negligence compensation claim and will not result in the payment of compensation but may assist you in further understanding what went wrong and why you were treated in the way that has caused you concern. There are a number of possible outcomes and the Queensland Office of the Health Ombudsman may be able to obtain a more full explanation of the circumstances of any alleged negligence or may give you more details about the treatment that you have received.

Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal cord injuries involve damage and injury to any aspect of the spinal cord or the nerves in the cauda equina at the bottom of the spinal cord. Damage to the spinal cord is often permanent, affecting strength, sensation and basic bodily functions below the level of the injury.

There are two factors that determine what happens after a spinal cord injury. They include the place of injury at the spinal cord and how severe the spinal cord injury. Severity depends on how complete the injury is. “Complete” means that the spinal cord was completely injured through and through at one level. “Incomplete” means that part of the spinal cord was left uninjured so that you have some sensation or motor function below the level of the injury.

Injury in the neck causes damage to motor and sensory function in the legs and arms. This is called quadriplegia. Injury to the back usually causes paraplegia or damage to the trunk, legs and pelvis.

Spinal cord injuries can cause any one or all of the following symptoms:

  • Lack of volitional movement
  • A loss of all sensations, including heat, touch, and cold sensations
  • Loss of bowel and bladder control
  • Changes in sexual function
  • Exaggerated reflexes and spasms
  • Intense pain due to spinal cord damage and nerve reflexes
  • Difficulty breathing or getting secretions up from your lungs
  • Changes infertility

Signs and Symptoms in the Emergency Room

Shortly after the accident, the doctors may note the following signs and symptoms:

  • Extreme pain in the back or neck; pressure in the neck or back
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control
  • Weakness or paralysis of various body parts
  • Oddly misshapen neck
  • Difficulty breathing after the accident
  • Difficulty walking after the incident
  • Numbness or lack of feeling in different body areas

If you are at an accident scene and suspect that someone has a back or neck injury, remember the following rules:

  • Don’t move the individual as it can worsen any kind of spinal injury the person may have.
  • Call 911 to alert paramedics to come and help the person
  • Calm the person and keep them still
  • Prevent the neck from moving by providing traction to the neck
  • Do the basics of first aid such as stopping bleeding and keeping the individual comfortable without any neck movement


A traumatic spine injury can occur following a sudden blow to the spine that dislocates, fractures, crushes, or compresses one or more vertebrae. A traumatic injury to the spine can come from a gunshot wound or knife wound that penetrates the spinal cord, cutting the cord. Bleeding and swelling from the initial injury can cause inflammation and fluid accumulation and can cause worsening symptoms.

There can be nontraumatic injury to the spinal cord that is caused by cancer, inflammation, arthritis, disc degeneration of the spine and infections around the spinal cord. Regardless of the cause of the injury, the spinal cord that controls motor and sensory function of the body becomes damaged. The neck controls the breathing and the function of the arms, trunk and legs. The trunk controls the sensation and movement of the trunk below the level of the injury and the legs. The cauda equina controls bowel and bladder function and some leg functions.

The common causes of spinal cord injury include:

  • Car accidents result in more than 40 percent of spinal cord injuries. This includes motorcycle accidents as well.
  • Falls can cause spinal cord accidents. This is especially true of accidents in those over the age of 65 years. Falls cause 25 percent of all injuries to the spinal cord.
  • Acts of violence represent 15 percent of all injuries to the spinal cord. This includes gunshot wounds and knife wounds.
  • Sports injuries such as diving in shallow water can result in spinal cord injuries. Sports injuries represent about 8 percent of all spinal cord injuries.
  • Alcohol use becomes a factor in getting a spinal cord injury about 1 in 4 spinal injuries
  • Diseases like arthritis, cancer, inflammation or infection of the spinal cord, and osteoporosis can result in injuries to the spinal cord.

Risk Factors

A spinal cord injury can happen to anyone but there is a segment of the population that is at a higher risk than others. These include:

  • Being of the male gender. About 80 percent of spinal cord injuries happen to men due to their increase in risky behavior.
  • Being between the ages of 16 and 30. This is the group that is at the highest risk of having a motor vehicle accident leading to spinal cord injury.
  • Engaging in risky behavior such as diving in a shallow pool or playing in sporting events without the proper headgear.
  • Having arthritis or osteoporosis can increase the risk of having a spinal cord injury.

Complications of Trauma

There are several different complications of spinal cord trauma that span many body areas. These include:

  • Loss of bladder control. The patient will need to be catheterized to drain urine because the brain cannot send the signal to the bladder to empty. There are often frequent bladder infections.
  • Loss of bowel control. This can get better if the patient eats a high fiber diet that can help regulate bowel movements.
  • Lack of many skin sensations below the level of the injury. This can mean the patient is prone to have skin ulcers from a lack of frequent repositioning.
  • Lack of circulation control. This can lead to passing out or fainting when you are up in a sitting position. The blood pressure can unexpectedly rise as well.
  • Difficulty breathing. Depending on the level of the injury, the breathing muscles can be affected. This can lead to an increased risk of pneumonia.
  • Muscle tone can be very rigid or can become flaccid. It all depends on the nature of the injury.
  • Weight loss and muscle atrophy can become a problem shortly after a spinal cord injury.
  • Sexuality and fertility can be affected, especially in males. Women are more likely to be able to engage in sexual activity and to have normal fertility.
  • There can be increased pain in certain areas, such as the muscles or joints. Nerve pain is common after a spinal cord injury, especially if there has been an incomplete spinal injury.
  • Depression is common after a spinal cord injury due to the overwhelming nature of the injury and the impact on the patient’s life.

HELPLINE: 07 3613 7325