What is Paraplegia?

Paraplegia is a condition in which a person has paralysis (lost muscle function and possibly sensation) in the legs and lower torso.

It is most commonly caused by injury to the spinal column below the first thoracic vertebrae, T1. The thoracic, lumbar or sacral area of the spine are the vertebrae below the cervical section of the spine.

Injuries above the first thoracic vertebrae generally result in quadriplegia.

Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP)

Hereditary spastic paraplegia is a rare type of paraplegia that is hereditary in nature and that can progress from a stiffness felt in the legs to full spastic paralysis. Spastic paralysis is a type of paralysis where the muscles are stiff, lack coordination, and subject to uncontrollable spasms that result in jerky movements.

This is a progressive condition that normally appears in early- through middle-aged adulthood but can begin at any age.

Classifications of Paraplegia

The American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) has developed a classification scale to quantify the severity of the paraplegia experienced by a person.

This classification scale includes one level of “complete” paraplegia where the individual has no sensation (feeling) or muscle function and three levels of “incomplete” paraplegia where the individual has varying degrees of sensation and muscle function. They also have a “normal” classification where there is no impairment of muscle function.

Muscle function is measured on a scale from 0 to 5, where 0 is complete paralysis and 5 is normal muscle function. A muscle function level grade of 3 is used when determining the classification of quadriplegia. Grade 3 muscle function is when the muscle can be moved against gravity but has no ability to perform a task due to weakness.

Spinal Injury Classification Chart:

  • A. Complete
    No motor or sensory function in the lowest sacral segment (S4-S5).

  • B. Incomplete
    Sensory function below neurologic level and in S4-S5, no motor function below neurologic level.

  • C. Incomplete
    Motor function is preserved below neurologic level and more than half of the key muscle groups below neurologic level have a muscle grade less than 3.

  • D. Incomplete
    Motor function is preserved below neurologic level and at least half of the key muscle groups below neurologic level have a muscle grade 3.

  • E. Normal
    Sensory and motor function is normal.

THIS MATERIAL DOES NOT CONSTITUTE MEDICAL ADVICE. IT IS INTENDED FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. PLEASE CONSULT A PHYSICIAN FOR SPECIFIC TREATMENT RECOMMENDATIONS.