Facts about Spinal Cord Injury

  • What is a spinal cord injury?

    Spinal cord injury (SCI) occurs when a traumatic event results in damage to cells within the spinal cord or severs the nerves that relay signals up and down the spinal cord. The most common types of SCI include contusion (bruising of the spinal cord) and compression (caused by pressure on the spinal cord). Other types of injuries include lacerations, when nerve fibers are severed or torn. Severe SCI often causes paralysis (loss of control over voluntary movement and muscles of the body) and loss of sensation and reflex function below the level of injury.

  • How many people have spinal cord injuries?

    It's estimated there are approximately 11,000 new cases in the U.S each year. Current estimates are 250,000 - 400,000 individuals living with Spinal Cord Injury or Spinal Dysfunction in the U.S. Within Georgia the 2018 Central Registry reported 570 spinal cord injuries treated in Georgia hospitals.

  • What causes spinal cord injuries?

    The leading causes of SCI (2015) are:

    • Motor vehicle accidents (38.3%)
    • Acts of violence (13.8%)
    • Falls (31.6%)
    • Sports (8.2%) (2/3 of sports injuries are from diving)
    • Medical/Surgical (4.3%)
    • Other (1.3%)

    According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Association falls overtake motor vehicles as the leading cause of injury after age 45. Acts of violence and sports cause fewer injuries as age increases.

    About 30% of persons with SCI are re-hospitalized one or more times during any given year following injury. Among those re-hospitalized, the length of the hospital stay averages 22 days according to the NSCSC.

  • Who is at highest risk for spinal cord injuries?
    • 80% male, 20% female
    • Highest per capita rate of injury occurs between ages 16-30
    • Average age at injury - 42 years
    • Median age at injury - 26
    • Mode (most frequent) age at injury 19
  • What are the costs of spinal cord injuries?

    Average first year expenses for a SCI with paraplegia is $537,271 (2017) and up to $1,102,403 for quadriplegia. Each subsequent year the average yearly expenses are $71,172 for paraplegia and up to $191,436 for quadriplegia.

    National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, Facts and Figures at a Glance. Birmingham, AL: University of Alabama at Birmingham, 2018.

  • What are the common consequences of spinal cord injuries?

    Urinary dysfunction, respiratory infection and bedsores are common complications from SCI. Some of these complications require re-hospitalization. Each year, approximately one-third to one-half of all people with SCI are re-admitted to the hospital.

    To view Factsheets related to issues with a spinal cord injury please click the following link https://www.uab.edu/medicine/sci/uab-scims-information/sci-infosheets