How do I Diagnose a T12 Spinal Cord Injury?

Written by lauren griffin
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How do I Diagnose a T12 Spinal Cord Injury?
While only a doctor can diagnose a spinal cord injury, it is helpful to know how to spot possible T12 damage. (Wirbelsäule - Computertomographie image by Daniel Schmid from

Spinal cord injuries can cause devastating effects and even death. The extent and severity of the injury can depend on the area of the spinal cord that is damaged. An injury at the T12 vertebrae, which is located at the lower thoracic region of the spinal cord, may result in the loss of moment and sensation in the lower part of the body, while the upper body remains free of injury. While only a medical professional should treat and diagnose a spinal cord injury, there are many signs and symptoms to look for that suggest damage to T12.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Verbally assess the patient's ability to move. Remember, it is important not to move a person who may have a spinal cord injury. T12's position just above the hips means that a patient with this injury may lose of voluntary movement below the hips, although they often maintain the ability to control the muscles of their arms, hands, abdominals and trunk. If a patient expresses their inability to move muscles below their hips, they may have sustained a T12 injury.

    How do I Diagnose a T12 Spinal Cord Injury?
    While a patient with a T12 injury may be able to move their upper body, they frequently are unable to move their legs. (mobilität für behinderte image by Digitalpress from
  2. 2

    Ask the patient if he can feel different parts of his body. Damage to the T12 section of the spinal cord impairs the patient's sensory ability beyond that point. A patient who can feel on his torso or arms, but not his legs, may have sustained an injury at T12. While it is imperative to leave the touching and moving of someone with a spinal cord injury to trained medical professionals, verbally obtaining such information can be helpful to assess their condition.

  3. 3

    Look for other signs and symptoms of a T12 spinal cord injury. Patients with injury to their T12 spinal cord may lose control of the bowel and bladder. Sexual dysfunction is also common among those with damage to the T12 area. Spasticity, atrophy of muscle tissue and neuropathic pain may also accompany such an injury. Some patients may also have difficult regulating basic body functions, such as temperature, heart rate and blood pressure.

  4. 4

    Read an MRI or CAT scan. If a patient shows the signs of having a T12 spinal cord injury, a medical doctor will probably order a CAT scan or an MRI. A CAT scan is better at obtaining images of bones, and is more useful to assess spinal damage. An MRI, however, provides a better view of soft tissue and is better to use to determine spinal cord damage.

    How do I Diagnose a T12 Spinal Cord Injury?
    An MRI will help the doctor determine the level of the spinal cord injury. (medicina_nuclear-15 image by Paco Ayala from

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