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Doctors' Answers to "Frequently Asked Questions" - Paralysis


These comments are made for the purpose of discussion and should NOT be used as recommendations for or against therapies or other treatments. An individual patient is always advised to consult their own physician.

Paralysis following spinal surgery
Question: My 69 year old neighbor, who has rheumatoid arthritis, was awaiting knee replacement surgery and because the knee was at the bone on bone stage he was only able to get around using crutches. He took a fall on some ice with the crutches making his getting around even worse. He was checked for any broken bones in his hip, which turned out negative, but because of the severe bruising and increased pain in his knee he got up and down only to enter and exit bed. He mentioned a numbness starting in his feet and then progressing up his legs until his legs gave out on him one morning upon rising and I had to call the ambulance. They took an MRI in his upper back and found that a combination of the arthritis and the fall had caused pressure on the spine and was causing the numbness. They said he required immediate surgery which was performed. Surgery was done to clean out the area damaged around the spinal cord. He came through the surgery OK, but the doctor told me he had excessive bleeding due to the fact he had taken Naproxen for his arthritis for many years. Within less than 24 hours, he developed a blood clot at the site of the surgery and an emergency operation was performed to remove it. He has been in a convalescent hospital ever since, but never regained use of his legs and now has no control over bowels or urine. He can feel inner pain such as the pain in the bad knee when they move it, but has paralysis from above the waist down. They took him in for another MRI which showed that he now has scar tissue on the spinal cord which they say has caused the paralysis. My question is: Is this permanent? Can scar tissue on the spine be operated on? And if so, how would you find a doctor that does such a surgery? If it is permanent, can scar tissue on the spine cause further complications down the road? If so, what kind of complications?

Answer: Unfortunately, these are far too complicated without knowing more details of the case. I would discuss this with the surgeon who did the surgery. If they are unable to answer your questions, they should be able to refer you to a physician who could with the aid of the x-rays.
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