As many as 400,000 Americans are living with spinal cord injury today. Traumatic spinal cord injury affects between 10,000 and 12,000 each year, often because of a motor vehicle accident, a sports injury, a work-related accident or a fall. While the majority of spinal cord injured patients are young males, traumatic spinal cord injury can happen to individuals of all ages.
A sudden trauma that fractures, dislocates, crushes, or compresses one or more vertebrae can damage the spinal cord. This initial injury is followed by a “cascade” of reactions at the affected site that worsen the damage leading to permanent disability including loss of movement and sensation below the level of injury. Additional complications include breathing difficulties, loss of normal bowel and bladder control, spasticity and pain. Pain after a spinal cord injury can be so severe and disabling that some patients have said they would give up the possibility of neurological recovery in favor of pain relief. Depression has been found at a higher level among people living with spinal cord injury.
The impact and devastation radiates out from the individual to his or her family and community. SCI creates financial concerns for the individual, the family, and the healthcare system. The average yearly healthcare cost and living expenses that have been directly attributed to SCI vary, but are significant and can reach out p one million dollars per year.