What is Quadriparesis?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 31 August 2018
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Quadriparesis, also known as tetraparesis, is a weakness in all four limbs. It is related to quadriplegia or tetraplegia, in which all four limbs are paralyzed. There are a number of things which can cause this condition, and several treatment options are available. As a general rule, the patient needs to be under the care of a neurologist, a medical specialist who focuses on disorders of the nervous system.

Patients with quadriparesis can experience varying levels of function in their limbs, depending on the specifics of the injury. In some patients, the limbs may be weak and the patient may lack motor control. Other patients may have substantial areas of paralysis, while others may have relatively good motor skills. A neurologist can conduct a detailed examination to find out precisely where the problem originates, by determining which nerves are affected.


Congenital conditions such as muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy are both linked with this problem, with quadriparetic cerebral palsy, also known as spastic quadriparetic cerebral palsy, being the most severe form of cerebral palsy. People can also develop this condition as a result of degenerative neurological conditions. Spinal cord trauma, such as that caused by a fall, car accident, or ruptured disc, may also lead to it. In all cases, the signals sent along the spine are interrupted, at least partially, meaning that the nerves below the area of the interruption do not have full functionality. In quadriplegia, the patient's nerves cannot send any signals at all, and they experience a lack of motor and sensory input.

When a patient presents with quadriparesis, the first step is to figure out which area of the spine is involved, and what is causing the weakness and loss of sensation. This is done with the assistance of a neurological exam, an interview of the patient, and medical imaging studies of the spine. It's important to determine the level of involvement and the cause when developing an approach to management and treatment.

Treatments can include surgery to address issues such as discs that are impinging on the spinal cord, along with physical therapy to keep the muscles from atrophying and to prevent contractures. Patients may also benefit from the use of an assistive device, like a cane, wheelchair, or scooter, if they have difficulty walking. Physical functions, such as stomach emptying, can also be impaired\, requiring additional measures to keep the patient comfortable.


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Post 4

Peripheral neuropathies such as CIDP can also cause quadriparesis without involving the spine at all. The weakness is caused by nerve damage in the limbs themselves. So while the first step is to determine exactly what is affected, it need not be the spine at all. An MRI might rule out spine involvement while a nerve conduction study showed damage in the peripheral nerves.

Post 3

My husband is 50 yrs old and is waiting for a MRI scan. His consultant's prognosis is onset of acute spastic quadriparesis. I have looked it up, but don't understand. Has anyone heard of it or experienced it?

Post 2

Spinal cord injuries can also cause quadriparesis or paralysis of the limbs below the point of injury, meaning that injuries to the upper spine are typically more severe than those to the lower spine. My brother was in a car accident a few years ago, and for a while they thought he might be at risk for quadriparesis. Luckily, he is OK now, but let me tell you, we learned more about quadriparesis and paralysis in those weeks than anybody would ever want to know!

For instance, did you know that the main symptoms of paralysis can range from spastic or weak muscles, to loss of feeling in affected areas to tingling sensations? Before the accident I thought the

only symptom was that you couldn't move...

Oh, another fact that stuck in my brain was that paraparesis (paralysis of the lower limbs) or quadriplegia resulting from a spinal cord injury, any functioning that is not restored within six months is probably a permanent loss of strength or movement -- scary, right?

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