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(pâr'əplē`jēə), paralysis of the lower part of the body, commonly affecting both legs and often internal organs below the waist. When both legs and arms are affected, the condition is called quadriplegia. Paraplegia and quadriplegia are caused by an injury or disease that damages the spinal cord, and consequently always affects both sides of the body. The extent of the paralysis depends on the level of the spinal cord at which the damage occurs. For example, damage to the lowest area of the cord may result only in paralysis of the legs, whereas damage farther up on the cord causes possible loss of control over the muscles of the bladder and rectum as well or, if occurring even higher, may result in paralysis of all four limbs and loss of control over the muscles involved in breathing.

Most frequently the cause is an injury that either completely severs the spinal cord or damages some of the nervous tissue in the cord. Such damage could result from broken vertebrae that press against the cord. Diseases that cause paraplegia or quadriplegia include spinal tuberculosis, syphilis, spinal tumors, multiple sclerosis, and poliomyelitis. Sometimes when the disease is treated and cured, the paralysis disappears, but usually the nerve damage is irreparable and paralysis is permanent. Treatment of paraplegia and quadriplegia is aimed at helping to compensate for the paralysis by means of mechanical devices and through psychological and physical therapy.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



paralysis of both lower or both upper limbs. It arises as a result of organic lesions of the nervous system (organic paraplegia); sometimes it results from psychogenic disturbances, as in paraplegia from hysteria.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Paralysis of the lower limbs.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


Pathol paralysis of the lower half of the body, usually as the result of disease or injury of the spine
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Orlacchio, "Hereditary spastic paraplegia: clinical-genetic characteristics and evolving molecular mechanisms," Experimental Neurology, vol.
Koppen et al., "Loss of m-AAA protease in mitochondria causes complex I deficiency and increased sensitivity to oxidative stress in hereditary spastic paraplegia," The Journal of Cell Biology, vol.
Ungaro, "Oxidative DNA damage and activation of c-Jun N-terminal kinase pathway in fibroblasts from patients with hereditary spastic paraplegia," Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology, vol.
Hereditary spastic paraplegia: advances in genetic research.
The genetics of hereditary spastic paraplegia and implications for drug therapy.
SPG11 mutations are common in familial cases of complicated hereditary spastic paraplegia. Neurology 2008; 70(16 Pt 2):1384-9.

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