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MeSH D010264

Paraplegia[1] is an impairment in motor and/or sensory function of the lower extremities. It is usually the result of spinal cord injury or a congenital condition such as spina bifida which affects the neural elements of the spinal canal. The area of the spinal canal which is affected in paraplegia is either the thoracic, lumbar, or sacral regions. If the arms are also affected by paralysis, quadriplegia is the proper terminology. If only one limb is affected the correct term is monoplegia.



While some people with paraplegia can walk to a degree, many are dependent on wheelchairs or other supportive measures. Impotence and various degrees of urinary and fecal incontinence are very common in those affected. Many use catheters and/or a bowel management program (often involving suppositories, enemas, or digital stimulation of the bowels) to address these problems. With successful bladder and bowel management, paraplegics can prevent virtually all accidental urinary or bowel discharges.


Due to decreased movement and loss of the ability to run, paraplegia may cause numerous medical complications, many of which can be prevented with vigilant self care. These include pressure sores (decubitus), thrombosis and pneumonia. Physiotherapy and various assistive technology, such as a standing frame, may aid in preventing these complications.Paraplegia is often caused by an injury to the spinal cord, such as those resulting from a motor vehicle or motorcycle accident, gunshot wounds, and falls. Paraplegia can also be caused by non-traumatic factors such as spinal tumors, scoliosis, and spina bifida. Scoliosis is an abnormal sideways curving of the bones that make up the structure surrounding the spinal cord. Spina bifida is a birth defect in which parts of bones that make up the structure surrounding the spinal cord do not come together properly.

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  1. ^ From Ionic Greek: παραπληγίη "half-striking".

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