The effects of spinal cord injury on the gastrointestinal tract

Spinal cord injuries can be the result of slips and falls, birth defects or car accidents. California residents may benefit form learning more about the long-term complications that acute or chronic injuries to the spinal cord could have. One of these complications is gastrointestinal tract dysfunction.

After a chronic spinal cord injury, the flexibility and motility of the large intestine decreases. Colonic motility is the mixing of food back and forth in the colon and the contracting of the muscle that brings on the urge to have a bowel movement. Electromyographic studies, which assess the health of colonic muscles and the nerves controlling those muscles, show that people with spinal cord injuries have more colonic myoelectrical activity.

As patients with spinal cord injuries age, complications related to gastrointestinal tract dysfunction become more numerous. According to Medscape, 20 percent of spinal cord injury patients develop bowel evacuation problems, 43 percent experience excessively high blood pressure associated with the gastrointestinal tract, 43 percent develop abdominal distention and 74 percent develop hemorrhoids.

The ability to manage neurogenic bowel incontinence, which is the inability of the nervous system to control bowel movements, has the potential to change as patients gain weight or age. Bowel dysfunction occurs most often in patients who have had spinal cord injuries for at least five years. Patients age 60 or older have even more gastrointestinal complications, as do those who have had spinal cord injuries for at least 30 years. Colorectal cancer occurs in these patients more often than others.

People who suffer spinal cord injuries due to the negligence of other people or entities might be able to secure fair compensation for the immediate and future complications from which they suffer. Personal injury lawyers could help these people protect their rights throughout their cases.

Source: Medscape, “Gastrointestinal Changes in Spinal Cord Injury,” Terry Winkler, Sept. 10, 2014

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