Patients with Paraplegia at High Risk for Developing Pressure Ulcers

By Nursing Home Law Center


A recent report from says elderly patients with paraplegia are especially susceptible to developing bed sores, or decubitus ulcers. Empowher defines paraplegia as “paralysis brought on by a severe trauma to the central nervous system.” Traumas, for elderly patients, often involve strokes or falls. People with paraplegia usually can’t walk or stand.

The location of a patient’s spinal cord injury is especially important in determining the patient’s ultimate outcome, Empowher says. Patients with spinal cord injuries in the upper vertebra (numbered T1-T5, going down from the neck) will likely not be able to use their legs. Patients with injuries in the lower “T6-T12” vertebra may be able to move with the help of a walker or braces. All patients with spinal cord injuries, however, are at risk for developing bed sores.

According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Association, bed sores are responsible for causing the deaths of 8% of all spinal cord patients. The NSCIA also reports that bed sores heal more slowly in patients with spinal cord injuries, and that hospitalizations of up to one year are not uncommon.

Empower says family members should be alert for certain signs of paraplegia, including complaints of severe back pain, and a loved one’s inability to move legs, feet and toes. To treat paraplegia, Empowher recommends a full course of both physical and occupational therapy.

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