What is quadriplegia?

Quadriplegia, also called tetraplegia, is caused by damage to your spinal cord. When the spinal cord is damaged, you lose feeling and movement. Your arms, hands, trunk, legs, and pelvic organs are paralyzed.

Many problems may happen after a spinal cord injury. Some of these include having your blood pressure go too low or your heart beat too slowly. You may have trouble in breathing, or be unable to breathe on your own. Also, being paralyzed can cause skin sores and muscle contractures. You may develop blood clots that can be life-threatening.

Sometimes, your body cannot respond correctly to problems like bladder or bowel problems. This is called autonomic dysreflexia, and it causes your blood pressure to get very high. If you are not treated quickly, this can cause a stroke or even death. If you have quadriplegia and do not get treatment, you will not be able to feed or care for yourself.

How common is quadriplegia?

This health condition is extremely common. It can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of quadriplegia?

Your symptoms may depend on the location and severity of your spinal cord injury. The common symptoms of quadriplegia include:

  • Bowel and bladder incontinence.
  • Impaired digestion.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Numbness and decreased sensation.
  • Limp muscles, especially in your arms and legs.
  • Not be able to move and feel anything below the damaged area.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • You have a fever.
  • You have trouble urinating or urinate less than usual.
  • Your abdomen is swollen and firm.
  • You have blood in your urine or bowel movement.
  • You feel lightheaded, short of breath, and have chest pain.
  • You cough up blood.
  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
  • You have blurred vision or see spots.
  • You have cold, dry skin with goose bumps below your spinal cord injury.
  • You have hot, sweaty, red skin above your spinal cord injury.
  • You have a sudden throbbing headache.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


What causes quadriplegia?

The primary cause of quadriplegia is a spinal cord injury, but other conditions such as cerebral palsy and strokes can cause a similar appearing paralysis. Apart from health condition, car accidents, work-related injuries are the other causes of quadriplegia.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for quadriplegia?

There are many risk factors for quadriplegia, such as:

  • Being male. Spinal cord injuries affect a disproportionate amount of men.
  • Being older than 65. Falls cause most injuries in older adults.
  • Having a bone or joint disorder. A relatively minor injury can cause a spinal cord injury if you have another disorder that affects your bones or joints, such as arthritis or osteoporosis.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is quadriplegia diagnosed?

These tests may include:

  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan. A CT scan may provide a better look at abnormalities seen on an X-ray. This scan uses computers to form a series of cross-sectional images that can define bone, disk, and other problems.
  • X-rays. Medical personnel typically order these tests on people who are suspected of having a spinal cord injury after trauma. X-rays can reveal vertebral (spinal column) problems, tumors, fractures or degenerative changes in the spine.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MRI uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to produce computer-generated images. This test is very helpful for looking at the spinal cord and identifying herniated disks, blood clots or other masses that may be compressing the spinal cord.

How is quadriplegia treated?

You will need to stay in the hospital right after your injury. You will then be moved to a recovery center. The goal of recovery is to help you learn to take care of yourself as much as possible. Ask for more information on any of the following recovery treatments:

  • Respiratory care includes exercises and treatments to help you breathe and keep your lungs healthy. You may need respiratory care if you have trouble breathing. A machine called a ventilator will help you breathe.
  • Skin care helps prevent pressure sores. Specialists will help you learn how to keep your skin healthy.
  • A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve your movement and strength.
  • An occupational therapist teaches you skills to help with your daily activities.
  • Bowel and bladder programs help you manage when you urinate or have a bowel movement.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage quadriplegia?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with quadriplegia:

  • Drive safely.Car crashes are one of the most common causes of spinal cord injuries. Wear a seat belt every time you drive or ride in a car.
  • Prevent falls.
  • Take precautions when playing sports.
  • Don’t drink and drive.
  • Take your medicine as directed.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: November 7, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

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