Spinal Cord Injury Levels

Physician Explaining Spinal Cord Injury Levels Why ASIA Classification Is Important To SCI Lawsuits

According the American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) classification, there are 5 different spinal cord injury levels according to the location of the trauma on the vertebral column and spinal cord segments. Up until the ‘90s, there was a lot of confusion regarding the correct classification of spinal cord injuries (SCIs) because the levels of the spinal vertebrae and cords differ quite a bit.

Vertebral Column Levels

According to the bone structure of the vertebral column, which is about 28 inches (72 cm) long, there are 33 vertebras differentiated into five levels:

  1. Cervical (neck) level – 7 vertebras – in medical terms these would be called C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, C6, and C7.
  2. Thoracic (chest) level – 12 vertebra – T1 to T12
  3. Lumbar (lower back) level – 5 vertebra – L1 to L5
  4. Sacral level (Cauda equina) – 5 vertebra, which are fused together – S1 to S5
  5. Coccygeal (tailbone) level – 4 fused vertebral bones – these have no reference.


The 9 vertebra in the sacral and coccygeal area are fused together to form the sacrum; this is shaped differently in males and females. Learn more details of the spinal cord anatomy.

Spinal Cord Injury Levels

The spinal cord – which is about 17 inches (45 cm) is situated within the vertebral column and stretches from C1 level to the position between L1 and L2. The spinal cord consists of 31 pairs of nerves classified as under:

  • 8 pairs cervical nerves
  • 12 pairs thoracic nerves
  • 5 pairs of lumber nerves
  • 5 pairs of sacral nerves; and
  • 1 pair of coccygeal nerves


Why ASIA Classification Of SCI Levels Is So Important?

Prior to the ASIA classification there was a lot of confusion among doctors as to how best to classify the injuries. This is because the spinal cord nerves – which affect the sensory functions – do not correspond to the alpha-numeric classification of the vertebra. For example, the T3-T12 spinal cord is located in the T3-T8 region. This means that injury in the T8 vertebra will show neurological effects at the T12 spinal cord level; and injury at vertebra T11 will indicate neurological effects in the L5 spinal cord level. Now, the orthopedic surgeons classify the SCI levels according to the damaged bone, while the neurosurgeons according to the neurological effects manifested. Both are correct; however, when looking for a diagnosis – especially in lawsuits – this becomes a labyrinth of research.

According the ASIA classification SCI levels fall under 5 levels:

  • ASIA level A – Complete: this is when there is absolutely no sensory or motor function;
  • ASIA level B Incomplete: this is when there is some sensory functions, but no motor functions altogether;
  • ASIA level C Incomplete: this is when there is motor function; yet the key muscles use have been severely limited;
  • ASIA level D Incomplete: this is when there is motor function and basic functionality in the key muscles;
  • ASIA level E Normal : in this case both sensory and motor functions are normal.


Prior to ASIA classification, there was little reliability and consistency in the description of the SCI. With the increased accuracy in the classification of spinal cord injury levels it is easier to explain and work out the best compensation package for the SCI lawsuits. Without the ASIA classifications, the legalities have always been an uphill task.

Free Legal Consultation

Jim Avery, a highly respected spinal cord injury lawyer, at the Avery Law Firm has been in practice since 1989. He has an over 90% success rate with all of his cases. Although he started his career representing doctors, hospitals and other such institutions, he decided to represent individuals who, unfortunately, have incurred life-changing injuries.

For more information, and a free consultation, call toll-free at (866)987-4368 to schedule an appointment. Do not delay; once the Statute of Limitations for your type of spinal cord injury has passed, we cannot help you collect.

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