AskDefine | Define paraplegia

Dictionary Definition

paraplegia n : paralysis of the lower half of the body (most often as a result of trauma)

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A condition where the lower half of a patient's body is paralyzed and cannot move.


paralysed condition

Extensive Definition

Paraplegia 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, tetraplegia is the proper terminology.


The causes range from trauma (acute spinal cord injury: transsection or compression of the cord, usually by bone fragments from vertebral fractures) to tumors (chronic compression of the cord), myelitis transversa and multiple sclerosis.

Peripheral nervous system

Rarer is the type which is caused by damage to the nerves supplying the legs. This form of damage is not usually symmetrical and would not cause paraplegia, but polyneuropathy may cause paraplegia if motor fibers are affected. While in theory the arms should also be affected, the fibers that supply the legs are longer and hence more vulnerable to damage. Larry Flynt, noted pornography magnate, sustained this form of nerve damage when he was shot in a murder attempt in 1978, rendering him paraplegic.


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 in German: Querschnittsyndrom
paraplegia in Spanish: Paraplejía
paraplegia in French: Paraplégie
paraplegia in Italian: Paraplegia
paraplegia in Japanese: 対麻痺
paraplegia in Dutch: Dwarslesie
paraplegia in Polish: Paraplegia
paraplegia in Portuguese: Paraplegia
paraplegia in Serbian: Параплегија
paraplegia in Finnish: Paraplegia
paraplegia in Swedish: Paraplegi
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