Transverse lesion

Interruption of nerve cells in the spinal canal, resulting in deficient muscle control and lack of feeling from the point of the lesion. It is caused by spinal injury (in an accident, for example) and tumours of the vertebrae (by metastasis) or of the spinal canal. Other causes are inflammation (an abscess), disorders of the blood vessels and in very rare cases a slipped disc. Cases of total transverse lesion cause persistent paralysis with loss of sensation in parts of the body below the injury. Life-threatening infections can be caused by the inability to urinate and by intestinal paralysis. After weeks or months severe spasticity sets in, with stiffening of the muscles (contracture); bladder and bowel conditions are controlled by reflex, rather than voluntarily. Transverse lesion high in the spinal column is fatal, because it causes failure of the diaphragm, making respiration impossible. Partial transverse lesion leads to failure of various functions, and ultimately leads to spastic paralysis, associated with changing loss of functions and lack of bladder and bowel control. There is a moderate chance of recovery. Complications of transverse lesion include bedsores, pneumonia and inflammation of the bladder (cystitis). Diagnosis is by spinal X-ray and possibly myelography (spinal X-ray with contrast medium). Where possible the underlying condition is treated by