The spinal cord plays a critical role in the human body. The brain, along with the spinal cord, forms the central nervous system, which is responsible for relaying messages from the brain toward various parts of the body. This ensures certain actions can be performed. Sensory receptors also use the spinal cord and central nervous system to communicate with the brain. Moreover, there are several reflexes that are regulated by the spinal cord.
The Impact Of Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries are not as common as some of the other injuries. However, they are considered very serious due to a high risk of leading to serious complications. One study found that the yearly incidence rate of spinal injuries is 163.4 out of a million individuals. This calculates to less than 0.001% of the population. There have been reports, however, of a higher incidence, with developed countries reporting statistics as high as 526 injuries per one million individuals.
Although the number of people affected is relatively low, the impact of spinal injuries on those who suffer from them is high. In developed countries, the mortality rate of spinal cord injuries is as high as 22.2% in some studies, with a minimum reported mortality rate of 3.1%.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), most of the spinal cord injuries recorded are caused by some type of preventable factor, with commonly reported causes consisting of:
- Vehicle accidents
In addition to the injury itself, up to 30% of individuals who suffer a spinal cord injury will develop symptoms associated with depression, often as a result of the complications the patients suffer from.
Average Costs Associated with a Spinal Cord Injury Worldwide
The treatment costs needed to assist a patient who was subject to a spinal cord injury can be devastating. According to one report, the initial costs the patient will incur during the first year of treatment vary, with a minimum reported cost of $300,000. In some cases, the costs for the first year’s treatment exceeded $1,000,000.
The bills continue to add up after the first year of treatment has passed. It is not uncommon for spinal cord injuries to require over a year of treatment. Sometimes, the medical care required can even span several years, especially when the injury is serious and leads to complications. Depending on the treatments that the patient will require, the additional annual medical cost can range from $42,000 to $200,000. Keep in mind that this is an annual expense that may continue for multiple years.
Required Treatment for Spinal Cord Injury
The specific line of treatment required for a spinal cord injury varies from one case to the next. The first step of treatment in all cases, however, is an acute trauma care solution. Different management services may be needed during the acute care phase, which could include:
- Medical assessment
- Emergency care and transportation
The patient might also need to spend time in an intensive care unit if the injury is serious. With a back injury, more intensive treatment could be needed.
During this stage, the patient will remain hospitalized. The average hospital stay for a patient who suffered a spinal cord injury is 15 days, but the duration can increase depending on how the patient’s body responds to treatment. The cost of staying at a hospital for just five days is about $10,000 in most cases, and that doesn’t even include specialized treatment services that the patient may need during the hospital stay.
After the initial treatment stage, the patient will probably require ongoing support to assist with the process of recovery. This usually includes undergoing physiotherapy at a rehabilitation center. Medication will also be needed for pain management. In many cases, additional drugs are also used to prevent the formation of blood clots and to help reduce the risk of infection.
If the patient develops a psychiatric condition, such as depression, as a complication of the injury, this adds a minimum weekly fee of $100 for appropriate therapy.
Spinal cord injuries can have a substantial impact on a victim’s life. The cost of treatment alone can be debilitating. In some cases, the spinal injury is caused by negligence from a third party, while in other cases, a defective product is a culprit. When the spinal cord is injured, a number of potential complications can develop. The nature of complications depends on the type and severity of the damages.