Increase in spinal cord injury noted

The number of spinal cord injuries among the older population has increased dramatically over the last three decades.

Falls are a leading cause of spinal cord injury and this is becoming particularly true for the aging population. A new study from Thomas Jefferson University now reveals that spinal cord injury is becoming a bigger problem among the over-70s.

The researchers say that the number of spinal cord injuries has gone up five times in the last 30 years in the over-70s, compared to those among younger patients. The percentage of geriatric patients in the spinal cord injury population has, accordingly, gone up from 4.2 per cent to 15.4 per cent. The study involved a review of a database of 3,481 spinal cord injury patients treated at the Jefferson Regional Spinal Cord Injury Center. The researchers note that older people are at risk of spinal cord injury because of decreases in bone quality and an increasing risk of a condition called cervical spinal stenosis. Co-existing illnesses tend to worsen the outcome of spinal cord injury in older people as well. Thus, mortality during hospitalization for spinal cord injury was 3.2 per cent for adult patients less than 70 but 27.7 per cent for those older than this. The corresponding figures for mortality a year after hospital discharge was 5.4 per cent and 44.4 per cent.

American Association of Neurological Surgeons meeting 19th March 2007

By: Susan Aldridge, medical journalist, PhD

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