Infant Spinal Cord Damage

What Causes the Injury

Different things can cause infant spinal cord injury. Infant spinal cord damage can happen with stressful deliveries due to traction on the infant’s trunk. Meanwhile, the rotational stresses on the brachial plexus, a network of nerves in the shoulder, and the spinal axis (or the second vertebra of the cervical spine that makes up your neck) can cause a palsy-related type of damage. While rare, it is possible that overstretching of the child’s spinal cord occurred during the delivery. Unfortunately, when an injury like this happens, it has the potential to cause your child a lifetime of disabilities.

As the birthing process happens, the child could sustain a partial tear, bruise, or a complete tear of the spinal cord. These injuries will most often impact the neck and the upper middle part of the back.

The Symptoms

You have a couple of symptoms that you have to be aware of, indicating your child suffered an injury. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Weak muscles
  • Respiratory problems
  • No feeling or loss of movement in the legs, chest, or arms
  • Lowered bladder or bowel function
  • Can’t regulate heartbeat, blood pressure, or body temperature
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Spasms
  • Stinging pains from nerve damage in the spinal cord

What are the Long-term Effects of Damage?

Infant spinal cord damage can cause a host of long-term effects that you may want to stay aware of. It depends on the severity, but some children will never recover. For example, spinal cord damage could create intellectual disability because it blocks communication with the brain. You also have severe cases where the child can die. Whether the nervous system can communicate through the spinal cord depends on a complete injury or an incomplete injury. With incomplete injuries, the brain can still send messages to the body that will let it move. In cases where you have a complete injury, the child could lose all sensory and motor functions. Unfortunately, this is a far more serious condition.

Luckily, you have many infant spinal cord damage cases where the damage was not serious enough to cause permanent injury. In these cases, the child will recover but still has a serious condition. This can be a condition as serious as cerebral palsy because it can leave you with a lifetime of disabilities. In some cases, doctors have mistaken these injuries for other types of injuries like hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy. This happens through the deprivation of oxygen to the brain, and it can lead to cerebral palsy. The reason that doctors sometimes misdiagnose it is because of how it can resemble other injuries.

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Article Citations

  1. Stanford Children's Health
  2. Boston Children's Hospital