A spinal cord injury can be a life-altering event for the person who sustains it as well as for their loved ones. Given the potential for lifelong disability, it is vital that the facts about these kinds of injuries be clearly understood. Here are five key things to know about them:
Approximately 1.3 million Americans live with a disability related to spinal cord injury. The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center estimates that as of 2015 there are approximately 12,500 new cases of spinal cord injury in the U.S. every year. The average age of injury has increased from 29 during the 1970s to 42 currently, and males account for about 80 percent of new cases. Vehicle crashes are currently the leading cause of injury, followed by falls, acts of violence and sports activities.
The costs of living with spinal cord injury can be considerable. Average yearly expenses for someone with spinal cord injury can range from about $230,000 to about $775,000 in the first year, and estimated lifetime costs can range up to $3 million for a 25-year-old with a newly diagnosed injury, reports the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.
The location of injury along the spinal cord determines its effects. The segment of the cord that is injured will determine which body functions are compromised or lost. Severe trauma to the cervical cord results in paralysis of most of the body and is called tetraplegia (formerly known as quadriplegia). Trauma to the thoracic cord in the upper, middle or lower back results in paralysis of the trunk and lower extremities and is called paraplegia, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).
A classification system measures the extent of neurologic injury. The American Spinal Injury Association Impairment Scale categorizes the degrees of injury into different groups on a scale from “A” to “E”. An “A” classification refers to no motor or sensory function below the level of injury; “B” to “D” refer to various levels of partial injury; while “E” refers to return to normal motor and sensory functions, according to NINDS.
A clinical research study is recruiting subjects to study a potential therapy for cervical spinal cord injury. The Pathway Study, being conducted by StemCells, Inc. at various sites around the U.S. and in Canada, is evaluating human neural stem cell transplantation as a potential therapy for those with cervical spinal cord injury. The purpose of the study is to evaluate the safety and potential benefit of an investigational product called human central nervous system stem cells (HuCNS-SC®) for people with this type of injury. To learn about eligibility for enrollment in the study, please visit www.sciresearchstudy.com.