Why Are Spinal Cord Injuries Serious?

Spinal cord injuries are one of the most severe injuries an individual can sustain. These types of injuries often result in significant loss of motor function from the site of the injury downward, including partial or complete paralysis. Here, we want to discuss spinal cord injury severity along with the actual costs victims and their families sustain when these injuries occur.

Spinal Cord Injuries and Levels of Severity

Spinal cord injuries are not all the same. There are varying levels, and the most basic way to define a spinal cord injury is either as an incomplete or complete spinal cord injury.

  • Incomplete spinal cord injury. This means that the injury to the spine did not completely sever the spinal cord at the site of the injury. Individuals could still have complete paralysis, but this could also lead to partial paralysis from the side of the injury downward.
  • Complete spinal cord injury. A complete spinal cord injury is one that does sever the spinal cord from the side of the injury downward and leads to complete paralysis from the site down.

You may also hear spinal cord injury victims referred to as quadriplegic or paraplegic. A person who has quadriplegia is paralyzed in all four limbs and their torso. Usually, this type of paralysis occurs due to a spinal cord injury in the cervical area of the spine. Tetraplegia means that a person has lost the ability to use their lower limbs and likely some other areas of their body below the torso.

As we examine these basic definitions of a spinal cord injury, we can see why spinal cord injuries are so serious. Individuals who experience any level of paralysis or disability will certainly undergo major life changes. Spinal cord injuries typically lead to a loss of quality of life, taking people away from their day-to-day activities and from the workplace.

The Costs of a Spinal Cord Injury

One major reason why spinal cord injuries are so serious is the cost the injuries bring to the victims and their family members. Information available from the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC) shows that the first year of medical care for a spinal cord injury can range from approximately $375,000 to more than $1.1 million. The Center states that each subsequent year of medical care can cost anywhere from $45,000 to around $200,000, depending on the severity of the injury.

However, the medical costs only paint an incomplete picture of the overall costs related to a spinal cord injury. When considering the overall severity of an injury, we also have to examine whether or not a person has lost income as a result of the injury as well as other costs such as rearranging a home to help with mobility, buying a new accessible vehicle, and more.

The Mental and Emotional Costs

Any discussion of spinal cord injury severity must include a discussion of the mental and emotional costs victims endure as a result of these injuries. This is a complete change of lifestyle, and individuals who were once active are often relegated to little to no activity at all. Spinal cord injury victims often suffer from depression and suicidal thoughts, so part of the care for a spinal cord injury victim should be recognizing mental health issues in providing treatment for those who need it.