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Facts and Figures About Spinal Cord Injuries*

  • It is estimated that 40,000 people per year suffer a spinal cord injury in the United States, not including those who die at the scene of the accident.
  • This rate amounts to 40 people per million population
  • In the mid-1970s, the average age for a spinal cord injury (SCI) was 28.7 years, and the range for most injuries was between 16-30 years. By 2005, the average age for an SCI injury was 40.2.
  • At present, about 81% of SCI injuries were to males
  • Causes of SCI injury break down as follows:
    • 42% from motor vehicle injuries
    • 27% from falls
    • 15% from violence
    • 8% from sports injuries
    • 8% from other
  • Types of SCI Injury
    • Quadriplegia or Tetraplegia -- injury to the cervical portion of the spinal cord
    • Paraplegia -- injury to the thoracic, lumbar or sacral portion of the spinal cord
    • Complete Injury -- complete paralysis below the level of injury
    • Incomplete Injury -- situation where only part of the spinal cord was damaged, resulting in the person having sensation but no movement below the level of injury or vice versa
  • Neurological Breakdown of SCI Injuries
    • 30% are incomplete quadriplegia
    • 26% are complete paraplegia
    • 21% are complete quadriplegia
    • 19% are incomplete paraplegic
    • Less than 1% experience complete neurological recovery by hospital discharge
  • Post Injury Occupational Status
    • 1 year after injury, 11.5% of SCI patients are employed
    • 20 years after injury, 35.4% of SCI patients are employed
  • Residence and Marital Status
    • 88% of SCI patients are discharged to a private home
    • 6% of SCI patients are discharged to nursing homes
    • 6% of SCI patients are discharged to other hospitals or other types of locations
    • 52.3% of SCI patients are single
    • The rate of marriage for SCI patients is lower than for the population at large for the same age group
  • Hospital and Rehabilitation Time
    • From the mid 1970s until 2005, the median number of days in intensive care for an SCI injury was reduced from 24 to 12
    • For the same time, the median number of days in a rehabilitation facility was reduced from 94 to 37
  • Estimated Lifetime Costs
    • C1-C4 Quadriplegic: $1.8 million to $3.2 million (based on age at injury)
    • C-5-C8 Quadriplegic: $1.1 million to $1.8 million (based on age at injury)
    • Paraplegic: $720,000 to $1.1 million (based on age at injury)
* Statistics provided by the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center at the University of Alabama-Birmingham



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