The thoracic region of the spinal column is made up of 12 segments referred to as T1 - T12. It is located in the middle of the spine between the cervical and lumbar levels.
The 12 thoracic vertebrae which make up this section of the spine connect directly to the rib cage. Nerve roots exit the spinal column at each vertebral level of the spine. The nerves and spinal cord at the thoracic level communicate with the central parts of the body.
Injuries to the spinal cord tissue or nerve roots impact physical function according to their vertebral level. The cord and nerve tissues correlating to the upper thoracic vertebrae levels regulate the following:
Spinal cord injuries in the thoracic region are rare due to the rib cage protecting the spine. Much like cervical spine injuries, damage to the thoracic spine may be characterized as complete or incomplete, and may affect one or both sides of the body.
The completeness of the spinal cord damage will determine how severe the injury truly is and how the patient can expect to recover.
Patients with an injury at the T1 - T8 levels may experience:
The most common causes of thoracic spinal cord injuries are:
Treatment for thoracic spinal cord injuries is aimed at strengthening the body as a whole and preserving any remaining function that remains after the injury.
Current treatments available for spinal cord patients are:
Thoracic spinal cord injuries are rare and only account for 10 - 15 percent of all spinal cord injuries. The thoracic spine is surrounded by the rib cage and it is much harder to damage the spinal cord in this area. Thoracic spinal cord injuries are less severe than other injuries to the spinal cord, and the further down the spine the injury occurs, the greater chance for at least partial recovery.