Saturday, February 24, 2007

by the numbers

This evening as we were driving, Robb started citing statistics about spinal cord injuries, which I found quite interesting.

Here, then are some facts about spinal cord injuries, as complied by the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center.

It is estimated that the annual incidence of spinal cord injury (SCI), not including those who die at the scene of the accident, is approximately 40 cases per million population in the U. S. or approximately 11,000 new cases each year.

The number of people in the United States who are alive in June 2006 who have SCI has been estimated to be approximately 253,000 persons, with a range of 225,000 to 296,000 persons.

Age at injury:
SCI primarily affects young adults. From 1973 to 1979, the average age at injury was 28.7 years, and most injuries occurred between the ages of 16 and 30. However, as the median age of the general population of the United States has increased by approximately 8 years since the mid-1970’s, the average age at injury has also steadily increased over time. Since 2000, the average age at injury is 38.0 years. Moreover, the percentage of persons older than 60 years of age at injury has increased from 4.7% prior to 1980 to 11.5% among injuries occurring since 2000. Other possible reasons for the observed trend toward older age at injury might include changes in either referral patterns to model systems, the locations of model systems, survival rates of older persons at the scene of the accident, or age specific incidence rates.

Since 2000, 77.8% of spinal cord injuries reported to the national database have occurred among males. Over the history of the database, there has been a slight trend toward a decreasing percentage of males. Prior to 1980, 81.8% of new spinal cord injuries occurred among males. (Are women working in more dangerous fields? Or are we getting into more serious car accidents? Could cell phone use while driving be connected to this trend?)

Since 2000, motor vehicle crashes account for 46.9% of reported SCI cases. The next most common cause of SCI is falls, followed by acts of violence (primarily gunshot wounds), and recreational sporting activities. The proportion of injuries that are due to sports has decreased over time while the proportion of injuries due to falls has increased. Acts of violence caused 13.3% of spinal cord injuries prior to 1980, and peaked between 1990 and 1999 at 24.8% before declining to only 13.7% since 2000. (I'm happy to read of this decline in gun violence.)

Occupational status:
More than half (64.2%) of those persons with SCI admitted to a Model System reported being employed at the time of their injury. The post-injury employment picture is better among persons with paraplegia than among their tetraplegic counterparts. By post-injury year 10, 32.4% of persons with paraplegia are employed, while 24.2% of those with tetraplegia are employed during the same year. (I wonder how this first statistic relates to the national averages for employment? Given the fact that spinal cord injuries occur among a typically younger population, is a 64.2% employment rate typical in America?)

Today 88.1% of all persons with SCI who are discharged alive from the system are sent to a private, non-institutional residence (in most cases their homes before injury.) Only 5.4% are discharged to nursing homes. The remaining are discharged to hospitals, group living situations or other destinations.

Marital status:
Considering the youthful age of most persons with SCI, it is not surprising that most (51.6%) are single when injured. Among those who were married at the time of injury, as well as those who marry after injury, the likelihood of their marriage remaining intact is slightly lower when compared to the uninjured population. The likelihood of getting married after injury is also reduced.

Cause of death:
In years past, the leading cause of death among persons with SCI was renal failure. Today, however, significant advances in urologic management have resulted in dramatic shifts in the leading causes of death. Persons enrolled in the National SCI Database since its inception in 1973 have now been followed for 33 years after injury. During that time, the causes of death that appear to have the greatest impact on reduced life expectancy for this population are pneumonia, pulmonary emboli and septicemia.


Lock Wench said...

VERY interesting. What I find fascinating is that I knew 3 people with SCI while I was still in high school in a small town. All were male and all were teenagers when they were injured. One kid dove into a pool and hit the bottom. (Regulations for pool depths and angles of the bottom were changed soon thereafter in the pool industry and he won some money) Another kid ran his mini-bike into a wire that was stretched across a park road and flipped himself onto his back. (He won a big settlement and from then on the park tied orange markers to the wire.) The other kid was in a car accident with one of his friends..and crashed after racing another car. So many risky or at least more athletic pursuits may put males at more risk back then. The good news from all this? All 3 survived and learned to walk again. The minibike kid recovered almost completely and all three are employed, married with children and seemingly are living full lives. The pool guy has the most trouble getting around though and seems to catch every cold and flu there is.

Is it normal to know THIS many people with SCI in such a small time period, though? I don't think I've met 3 SCI people since high school!


Syndee Zegel said...

Interesting stats. A former student (14 year old boy at the time of the accident) from the school I teach in suffered a SCI 3 years ago while sledding. He is currently a senior in high school and is playing wheel chair basketball. He was accepted to U of Arizona, where they have a wheelchair basketball team. Our school is currently running a fundraiser to help his local team go to a national playoff game. When they came to our school for the kickoff event, I got to try shooting hoops while seated in a wheelchair. Sadly, I did just as well as I normally do when standing--horribly.
Robb, I found that there is a letterbox location on Whiskey Road. I think that'll be the first one I find, since the history was quite interesting to me. Thanks again for the info. Please feel free to e-mail me. I feel like I'm taking up a lot of blog space.


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