SCI Prevention is Crucial to Decreasing the Impact on Individuals and Society

Published: March 1, 2006  |  Source: neurosurgerytoday.org
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Newswise — According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS), an estimated 250,000 to 450,000 people in the United States are living with a spinal cord injury (SCI). Every year, an estimated 11,000 SCI incidents occur in the United States. Most of these are caused by trauma to the vertebral column, thereby affecting the spinal cord’s ability to send and receive messages from the brain to the body’s systems that control sensory, Motor and autonomic function below the level of injury. According to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC), SCI costs the nation an estimated $9.7 billion each year. Pressure sores alone, a common secondary condition among people with SCI, cost an estimated $1.2 billion. “SCI prevention is essential to decreasing the impact of these injuries on individual patients and on society,” stated Alex B. Valadka, MD, FACS, AANS spokesperson and trauma expert.

Incidence

* The incidence of SCI is highest among persons age 16-30, in whom 53.1 percent of injuries occur; more injuries occur in this age group than in all other age groups combined.
* Males represent 81.2 percent of all reported SCIs and 89.8 percent of all sports-related SCIs.
* Among both genders, auto accidents, falls and gunshots are the three leading causes of SCI, in that order. Among males, diving accidents rank fourth, followed by motorcycle accidents. Among females, medical/surgical complications rank fourth, followed by diving accidents.
* Auto accidents are the leading cause of SCI in the United States for people age 65 and younger, while falls are the leading cause of SCI for people 65 and older.
* Sports and recreation-related SCI injuries primarily affect people under age 29.
* Transverse myelitis, a rare neurological disorder caused by inflammation of the spinal cord can cause paralysis, and affects an estimated 300 to 1,500 people in the United States every year.

While recent advances in emergency care and Rehabilitation allow many SCI patients to survive, methods for reducing the extent of injury and for restoring function are still limited. Although there is currently no cure for SCI, ongoing research to test surgical and drug therapies continues to progress. Drug treatments, decompression surgery, nerve cell transplantation, nerve Regeneration, stem cells, and complex drug therapies are all being examined in clinical trials as ways to overcome the effects of SCI. “While the late Christopher Reeve made significant strides in increasing public awareness about SCI, there is still a need for educating people about prevention,” said Dr. Valadka.

SCI Prevention Tips

Motor Vehicle Safety Tips

* Always wear a safety belt and make sure all passengers are wearing safety belts.
* Ensure that infants, toddlers and young children are properly restrained in an approved child safety seat that is installed correctly in the back seat.
* Ensure that all children 12 and younger ride in the back seat, properly restrained.
* Ensure that all children that have outgrown child safety seats are properly restrained in booster seats until they are age 8, or over 4’9” tall.
* Obey speed limits and follow rules of the road at all times.
* Never drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol or ride as a passenger in a vehicle with a driver who is under the influence.

Tips to Prevent Falls in the Home

* Keep the floor clear and free of debris. Reduce clutter and move telephone and electrical cords out of walkways.
* Keep the floor clean, but do not apply floor wax. Clean up grease, water and other liquids immediately.
* Use non-skid throw rugs to reduce your chance of slipping on linoleum.
* Install handrails in stairways and grab bars in the bathroom (by toilets and in tub/shower.)
* Make sure living areas are well lit because it is easy to trip in the dark.
* Be aware that climbing and reaching high places will increase your chance of a fall. Use a sturdy step stool with hand rails when these tasks are necessary.
* Follow medication dosages closely. Using medication incorrectly may lead to dizziness, weakness and other side effects. These can all contribute to falls.

Water and Sports Safety Tips

* Do not dive in water less than 9 feet deep or in above-ground pools.
* Follow all rules at water parks and swimming pools.
* Do not participate in sports when you are ill or very tired.
* Wear proper safety gear approved for the specific sport.
* Avoid uneven or unpaved surfaces when cycling or skateboarding.
* Football players should receive adequate preconditioning and strengthening of the head and neck muscles.
* Proper football blocking and tackling techniques must be taught and followed.
* Check sports fields, playgrounds and equipment regularly for safety.
* Discard and replace sporting equipment or protective gear that is damaged.

To learn more about SCI, visit: http://www.aans.org/Patient%20Information.aspx. For free, camera-ready fact sheets on SCI and other patient safety topics, visit: http://www.aans.org/Patient%20Information.aspx.

Founded in 1931 as the Harvey Cushing Society, the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) is a scientific and educational association with more than 6,800 members worldwide. The AANS is dedicated to advancing the specialty of neurological surgery in order to provide the highest quality of neurosurgical care to the public. All active members of the AANS are certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons (Neurosurgery) of Canada or the Mexican Council of Neurological Surgery, AC. Neurological surgery is the medical specialty concerned with the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of disorders that affect the entire nervous system, including the spinal column, spinal cord, brain, and Peripheral nerves.
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