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The Economic Impact Of Spinal Cord Injuries

Apart from the devastating effects on the physical person that spinal cord injuries can have, the economic impact of spinal cord injuries can play a large role in recovery and quality of life following these types of injury.

The following statistics are of interest regarding spinal cord injuries in the U.S:

There are approximately 12,000 new spinal cord injuries every year
Approximately 262,000 persons are living with spinal cord injuries (2009)
The average age at injury for spinal cord injuries is 40.2 years (since 2005)
Approximately 80% of those suffering a spinal cord injury are males
The three most common causes/mechanisms of spinal cord injuries are motor vehicle accidents, falls and violence (in that order)

Economic Impact

Occupation: More than half of the people affected by spinal cord injuries are employed at the time of their injury. It is estimated that only 11% of those injured are employed at the one year mark. This figure increases to 35% at the twenty year mark. Obviously, people who have suffered a spinal cord injury will have difficulty working. Those who do work will likely perform a different job than the one they performed before they were injured. Those who are able to work may undergo extensive retraining.

Residence: Almost 88% of those discharged from a hospital or a rehabilitation facility go home after discharge. The rest may be discharged to hospitals, nursing homes, residential homes or other facilities. Those who go home after their injury will have to have some home modifications made in order to be able to function at home. This may include adding ramps, mechanical lifts, bath/shower modifications and other changes to the home. Those who are discharged to other facilities may be unable to afford the cost of staying in these facilities. Regardless of whether the victim of a spinal cord injury goes home or to another facility, costs will be high.

Hospital length of stay: People who suffer spinal cord injuries can expect to stay an average of 12 days in an acute care facility. They can then expect to spend at least an average of 38 days in a rehabilitation unit. The costs associated with these stays may be overwhelming, particularly for people with inadequate or no insurance.

Lifetimes Costs: Average yearly expenses for victims of spinal cord injury range from $ 244,500 to $ 829,800 in the first year, depending on the level and extent of injury. Indirect costs (i.e. loss in wages and productivity) are estimated at $ 65,384 per year. This figure is of course dependent upon several factors, such as pre-injury employment and level of education. As can be seen from these few figures, the costs associated with spinal cord injuries can be extremely high.

Obviously, in the first days and weeks following spinal cord injuries, little thought is given to the economic impact of such injuries on the victims and their families. However, as time goes by and the victim begins preparation for life outside the hospital, the economic reality of medical and hospital bills, costs associated with preparing a living environment, inability to work and other factors force the injured person to re-evaluate their economic status. They may require assistance in the form of financial, social or legal aid in order to cope with their economic reality.

The author and webmaster of Catastrophic Injury Resource Center providing information about Spinal Cord Injury and the economic impact of spinal cord injuries and more.

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