Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)
Spinal cord injury, whether from traumatic injury or disease, is one of the most serious injuries that people can suffer and still survive. SCIs can cause:
- Paralysis, either partial or total, of the voluntary muscles below the injury site
- Loss of sensation, either partial or total, below the injury site
- Defects in the autonomic nervous system control of such involuntary actions as respiration and heartbeat
The most severe injuries bring the victim’s previous life to a complete halt, both shortening life expectancy and severely diminishing the quality of life.
Profile of SCI and SCI Victims
Data for 2013 from the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC) at the University of Alabama, Birmingham indicate that the most common causes of SCI since 2010 have been:
- Motor vehicle crashes–36.5%
- Falls—28.5 %
- Deliberate violence—14.3%
The NSCISC also reports that there are some 12,000 new cases of SCI each year (not counting victims who die at the accident scene), and an estimated 238,000 to 332,000 SCI victims living in the US. Victims tend to be young and some 80% are male.
Language of SCI
Broadly speaking, tetraplegics (also called quadriplegics) have no function in any of their four limbs, while paraplegics have the use of their arms.
In a “complete” SCI, no function remains below the level of the injury. “Incomplete” SCI means that there is some function below the injury (because some nerve fibers within the cord remain functional at the injury site).
Levels of Injury
The consequences of SCI vary greatly depending on which level of the spine was injured: the higher the level, the more functions affected. Unfortunately, the cervical section of the cord which passes through the neck is both the highest level and the most vulnerable to injury.
For the most part, a complete cord injury:
- Below C-7 level leaves victims at least self-sufficient in essential tasks of living
- Above C-6 leaves the victim dependent on others for the essentials of daily living
- At the C-6 and C-7 level may allow some independence to be achieved with great difficulty
Complications of Injury and Immobilization
Spinal cord injuries may be expected to have serious, even fatal, consequences for several other organs and body systems, including:
- Bowel and bladder
- Sexual function in both men and women
The immobilization that many SCI victims experience also cause problems ranging from pressure sores to spasticity and atrophy. Psychologically, depression is often a problem as well.
Long Term Consequences
Life expectancy remains lower for SCI victims. For a victim 20 years old at injury, life span is reduced 6.5 years for those with the least severe injuries, and 34 years for those who are ventilator dependent.
SCI naturally affects employability, with the precise effect depending on the severity of the injury and the personal characteristics of the victim. According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC), 57.1 percent of SCI victims in a model system were employed at the time of injury, but only 11.8 percent were employed a year after injury.
SCI victims who experience significant functional loss, especially to mobility, bowel and bladder control, and sexual function, often suffer severe psychological problems and may well become suicidal.
Help for SCI Victims
Apart from grievous personal loss in spinal cord injury cases, the undeniable fact is that dealing with SCI is a very expensive proposition. The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center estimates the lifetime cost associated just with the injury to be $3,385,259 for a person who suffers a C5 to C8 injury at the age of 25. Obtaining adequate and rapid compensation for the injury is imperative.
At Drake Law, we handle nothing but injury cases and have 25 years experience to call on. We understand the medical, legal and personal aspects of the case and offer personal attention to all our clients. If you need advice about an SCI in Birmingham and the surrounding areas, get it from an attorney who has won multiple million dollar awards. Call today for a free consultation.