Spinal cord injured patients are classified into two basic schemes. Technically, a person is classified as tetraplegic (quadriplegic) if there is evidence of functional loss of motor and sensory function at or above the C8 neurological level with demonstrable loss in the upper extremities. Paraplegia is described as functional loss below the C8 level and represents a wide range of neuromuscular dysfunction. The injury is classified as complete if there is no functional motor or sensory preservation in the sacral segments. An incomplete injury implies that there is preserved motor or sensory function at the sacral levels. It is important to note, too, that the level of bone injury may or may not correlate with the level of neurological injury and that the primary neurological injury is primary.
The spinal cord is the "highway" through which motor and sensory information travels between the brain and body. The spinal cord contains spinal tracts (white matter) surrounding central areas (grey matter) where most neuronal cell bodies are located. The grey matter is organized into segments comprising sensory and motor neurons. Nerves in the spinal cord connect to the body through nerve "roots" that exit the spinal column and supply the nerves in the legs, bladder, etc.