Each year spinal cord injuries (SCI) forever change the lives of one-quarter to one-half million people.
About Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI) are classified as either traumatic (caused by a fall, accident or sports injury) or non-traumatic (caused by physiological changes in the body, e.g. arthritis, tuberculosis, tumors on the spine or illnesses like spina bifida). Worldwide, the cause of SCI is predominantly traumatic injury.
Males ages 20-29 and over 70 and in females ages 15-19 and over 60 account for the largest number of SCI. Overall, the male-to-female ratio of those affected by SCI is 2:1.
Chronic pain is one constant among people experiencing SCI. Almost a third also suffer from lingering depression. Secondary medical issues frequently faced by those with SCI include respiratory problems, urinary tract infections, pressure ulcers, and blood clots.
For more detailed information on spinal cord injuries, please download a copy of the World Health Organization report for free on their website.
Children with SCI are frequently not enrolled in school and, if enrolled, are less likely to do well. Both adults and children face enormous challenges being accepted by their peers and encounter frequent issues with accessibility. Even accommodations claiming to be designed for the handicapped fall short and do not meet their needs.
Many things impact the costs incurred to care for spinal cord injuries, including the severity of the damage to the spinal cord, how quickly treatment began after the injury, frequency and length of time spent in the hospital, and direct costs like durable medical equipment. Another contributing factor is whether the patient lives in a low-income country. Also reflected in the cost of treatment is the inability to get or keep a job. The following chart shows how the cost of treatment differs depending on the type of injury and from the first year to following years.
History of Spinal Cord Injuries
The mortality rate from SCI was 80% when formal SCI care began at Boston City Hospital in the 1930s. As doctors learned more about post-injury infections and implemented procedures to prevent them, the mortality rate from SCI began to decrease. In high-income countries, advancements in emergency response, medical care, physical therapy, medical equipment to assist in mobility, and the availability of social services have revolutionized the outcome for those suffering spinal cord injuries. Work still remains, however, with the incidence of premature death still two to five times more common among those with SCI.
One of the major challenges the world faces today is the disparity in health care between high-income and low-income countries. Despite our worldwide focus on SCI, traumatic SCI in low-income countries remains a terminal condition.
Another area of concern is society’s attitude toward disabilities. Many people deal very well with their disabilities and, with certain modifications, could perform a job as well as they did prior to their injury. However, few employers are willing to give them a chance. The unemployment rate among those with SCI is greater than 60%.