It goes without saying that spinal cord injuries can be devastating, often causing quadriplegia (partial or total paralysis of the torso, arms and legs) or paraplegia (partial or total paralysis of the legs). Unfortunately, paralysis is not the only health risk related to spinal cord injuries.
Common systemic illnesses among spine injury patients
Lung diseases, including pneumonia, are common systemic diseases that happen along with spinal cord injuries. Additionally, the risk of cardiovascular disease relates directly to the severity of the spinal cord injury, and cardiovascular dysfunction is a leading cause of death among spine injury patients. Blood clots in the legs (deep vein thrombosis or DVT) or lungs (pulmonary embolism) are also life-threatening for spinal cord injury patients.
Pressure ulcers are also common for those with spinal injuries. Also known as bedsores, pressure ulcers can be avoided by moving the patient every few hours, using air mattresses and cushions, and shifting weight when sitting for long periods of time.
Leading causes of spinal cord injuries
Many spinal cord injuries, about 46%, are the result of motor vehicle accidents. Other leading causes include falls, sporting injuries and violence. Additionally, alcohol consumption is a factor in about 25% of these injuries. About 53% percent of spinal cord injury patients are left quadriplegic, and 42% are left paraplegic. Nearly 80% of all spinal cord injuries happen to men who are between 15 and 35 years of age.
In many cases, the cost of treating patients with spinal cord injuries rises to $1 million in the first year after the accident, and the costs can continue for years to come and amount to millions of dollars.
The good news
Eighty percent of patients who are not totally paralyzed are able to stand after one year, and 50% can walk after one year due to new spinal cord injury treatments. These treatments may include the use of stem cells, electrical stimulation and gene therapy.
If you or a loved one has suffered a spinal cord injury due to someone else’s negligence, it is crucial to understand your full range of options for getting the medical care and financial compensation you and your family need to move forward. For more on that, please see our Personal Injury Overview.