Quadriplegia (Tetraplegia) is defined as a complete paralysis of the body from the neck down, including both arms and both legs. The loss is sensory and motor, which means both sensation and control are lost. The condition is usually caused by a high spinal cord accident in the upper cervical area, or stroke.
Quadriplegia is a consequence of damage to the brain or the spinal cord at a high level, causing the partial or total loss of function of all four limbs, affecting arm movement, and causing dysfunction at the level of the fingers.
Most common causes are traffic accidents, falls, sports injuries, diseases (polio and transverse myelitis), multiple sclerosis or muscular dystrophy.
Besides the impairment to the limbs, functioning is also impaired in the torso, meaning the bowel and the bladder, sexual functions, breathing and digestion can be affected, in some cases to completely loss. Also, quadriplegics are often more vulnerable to pressure sores, osteoporosis and fractures, respiratory complications and cardiovascular diseases.
The severity of the paralysis depends on the level at which the spinal cord is injured and the extent of the injury. It starts on a scale from C7 to C1, the last one being the most severe. In mild cases, depending on the spinal cord damage, quadriplegic can even move their legs and arms, can walk as they never had a spinal injury, while other may need wheelchairs.