What Is the Lifelong Cost of a Spinal Cord Injury?

What Is the Lifelong Cost of a Spinal Cord Injury?

A 2020 publication of the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC) outlined how there could be as many as 368,000 individuals in the U.S. currently with spinal cord injuries (SCIs) and how there are approximately 17,810 new diagnoses every year.

This staggering statistic means that a significant number of individuals newly diagnosed with this condition are likely to find themselves in a situation where they have to ask, “What is the lifelong cost of a spinal cord injury?”

Below, we’ll share more about these injuries and the expenses those who suffer them often have.  

How Expensive It Is to Treat an SCI 

A study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2019 suggests treating spinal cord injury patients costs between $1.1 to $5.4 million. However, it’s important to highlight that the data point only takes into account the health care costs that individuals with SCIs incur. 

Data from the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation shows that costs fall within the same range above. However, their research shows that the costs incurred can vary widely depending on various factors, including:  

  • The severity of the injury
  • The age at which the onset of the injury occurs

How the Type of Spinal Cord Injury Impacts a Patient’s Lifetime Costs 

The type of SCI that a patient is diagnosed with dictates the level of care they require and thus impacts their lifetime costs.

The average breakdown of costs to treat a spinal cord injury patient during their life based on injury type per the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation resource cited above is: 

  • Incomplete injuries: Individuals with this type of spinal cord injury often retain the ability to feel or use limbs below their injury site. Most patients who suffer this type of SCI incur around $347,000 during the year after the onset of their injury and $42,000 annually after that. 
  • Paraplegia: SCIs like these affects either the sacral, lumbar, or thoracic spine; thus, paraplegics typically retain some upper body functionality. These patients often incur around $518,000 in treatment costs in the year following their injury and approximately $69,000 annually after that. 
  • Low tetraplegia: This type of spinal cord injury affects the lower cervical spine (C5-C8). Patients with this type of paralysis often have a limited amount of upper body mobility but still require assistance in performing everyday activities. These patients often have $769,000 in costs during the initial year after they’re injured. Yearly expenses after that first year tend to be around $113,000 annually.
  • High tetraplegia: Injuries affecting the upper cervical spine (C1-C4), or ones that cause a patient to have little to no voluntary leg or arm movement, are classified as this. SCI patients with this type of paralysis have the highest costs. They may incur just over $1 million to receive treatment during the first year after the onset of their injury and over $184,000 annually thereafter. 

How Age at the Time of Injury Impacts Lifetime Costs Spinal Cord Injury

Lifetime costs greatly vary depending on the age of the victim at the time of the onset of their SCI injury.  

There’s not a whole lot of data available to cite regarding how much a patient may suffer a spinal cord injury as a child may incur during their life. This is likely due to: 

  • The difficulty in forecasting economic factors that may impact treatment  
  • How the risk for secondary diseases increases over a patient’s anticipated lengthy
  • How developmental factors may impact a patient’s care or treatment needs until their bodies have stopped

Information about the costs adults with SCIs can expect to have across their lifetime is more readily available. The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation outlines those depending on whether a patient is closer to 25 or 50 when their injury occurs and the type of injury they have as follows: 

  • Incomplete spinal cord injuries: Over $1.5 million for a 25-year-old and around $1.1 million for someone who’s 50
  • Paraplegia: Just over $2.3 million for someone around 25 compared to a bit more than $1.5 million for a 50-year-old
  • Low tetraplegia (C5-C8 injury): An estimate of more than $3.4 million for 25-year-olds and just over $1.5 million for 50-year-olds
  • High tetraplegia (C1-C4 injury): Around $4.7 million for 25-year-olds and approximately $2.5 million for 50-year-old patients

A 2022 study published by the NIH goes into more detail about specific costs SCI patients must pay for certain types of treatment, such as acute care, inpatient rehabilitation, etc.  

Spine Injury Costs  Are Likely Much Higher Than They Initially Seem 

Virtually all of the amounts cited above refer to medical-related costs, such as:  

  • Surgeries
  • Hospitalization
  • Rehabilitation
  • Follow-up doctors’ appointments
  • Medication

Those amounts may also include:  

  • Medical supplies (for catheterization, for example)
  • Wheelchairs and assistive devices
  • The occasional support of health care aides
  • Home renovations to accommodate SCI patients

However, individuals with spinal cord injuries often incur other losses, like lost wages. Or, they may have a diminished future earning potential. SCI patients incur other losses when they suffer these injuries, though.

Many individuals with SCIs are unable to return to work in the same capacity they were employed in before their accidents, if at all, which can significantly impact their ability to support themselves and their families as they once did.

Sources of Compensation Available for Harm Due to Others’ Negligence 

Know that you don’t have to struggle to pay your bills and face obstacles in receiving top-notch medical care if someone caused you to suffer harm, like a condition as costly to treat as a spinal cord injury.

Instead, you may be eligible to file an insurance claim or lawsuit against the party who directly hurt you or hold others liable who contributed to causing your injuries.  

No matter how the accident that left you with your injury occurred, an attorney who handles personal injury cases can help.

Get in contact with our law firm, Barrera Law Group LLC, to discuss how your accident occurred and your right to recover compensation.