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.)
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.
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.