March 23, 2017

Spinal Cord Injury Research – Falls Cause More Injury In SCI

New Data Shows Falls Now Exceed Car Crashes as Leading Cause of SCI

Until just recently, automobile accidents ranked as the leading cause of spinal cord injuries in the US. However, a recent study based on an updated spinal cord injury research and data indicates that falls, particularly among the senior population, have surpassed car crashes as the number one cause of accidental, traumatic spinal cord injuries.

The study’s authors also suggest that programs to prevent falls in elderly people could significantly reduce the number of spinal injuries in the nation, based upon the results of the updated research. The new data set was taken from a body of 43,000 adults with spinal cord injuries who were treated in hospital emergency rooms between 2007 and 2009. The rate of injury among people ages 18 to 64 dropped from about 52 people per million in 2007 to about 50 per million in 2009, according to a Johns Hopkins Medicine news release.

Falls in Nursing Homes and among the General Senior Population are likely Contributing Factors

According to the study, published in the late January issue of the Journal of Neurotrauma, the rate of spinal injuries among people 65 and older rose from about 79 people per million to nearly 88 per million during that same time. Study co-leader Dr. Edward Hammond a research associate at the International Center for Spinal Cord Injury at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, said in the news release:

“We are seeing a changing face in the epidemiology of spinal cord injury.”

The updated spinal cord research shows falls accounted for 41.5 percent of spinal cord injuries during the study period, followed by car accidents at 35.5 percent. The researchers also found that fall-related spinal cord injuries accounted for 30 percent of all injuries among senior citizens in 2009, compared to only 23.6 percent in 2007.

Earlier spinal cord injury research established the average age of adults with spinal cord injuries at 41 years of age between 2000 and 2005. It has since increased to 51, according to the current study. The researchers also found that seniors with spinal cord injuries are four times more likely than younger patients to die from those injuries in the emergency room. Elderly patients also are six times more likely to die after being admitted to the hospital with a spinal cord injury.

Health Care System Strained by Costs of Treating Spinal Cord Injuries

Researchers say a combination of the overall aging of the U.S. population, the more active lifestyles of seniors and increased crash protection provided by airbags and seatbelt laws is a likely cause behind the changing trends in spinal cord injury patient demographics.

Spinal cord injury researchers also found that these injuries are a growing financial burden on the health care system as well as the US taxpayers. From 2007 to 2009, emergency-room charges alone for spinal cord injuries totaled $1.6 billion. Those charges increased 20 percent over the study period — well above the rate of inflation, researchers pointed out. Study co-leader Dr. Shalini Selvarajah, a postdoctoral surgical research fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, was quoted in a press release:

“It’s an area that is ripe for prevention. We have demonstrated how costly traumatic spinal cord injury is and how lethal and disabling it can be among older people.”

 

References:

 

Fox News Health – http://www.myfoxwausau.com/story/24564583/falls-top-car-crashes-as-leading-cause-of-us-spinal-injuries?clienttype=generic&mobilecgbypass

 

Living With A Spinal Cord Injury

Living With A Spinal Cord Injury:  The Symptoms and Complications

the top view of the spinal cord cavityAn injury to the spinal cord is a life altering event.   The spinal cord is an integral communication device for virtually every function in the human body from fine motor skills (hand, arm, leg and foot movement) to walking, running and bending.    The function of our vital organs relies on the messages carried from the brain through the spinal cord to our heart, lungs and more.   When the spinal cord sustains damage, it is not just mobility that is impacted but rather the entire systemic normal functioning of your body.

The Varied Symptoms of A Spinal Cord Injury

There are a number of degrees of impairment when it comes to spinal cord injury.  Depending on the level of severity and the exact location of the injury, symptoms can range from difficulty with mobility to complete inability to walk, vocalize and even breathe independently.    Mild spinal cord injuries can present as restricted range of motion, but a severe injury can result in a complete loss of ability to engage in activities of normal independent living.

Mild Injury Symptoms

  • Loss of complete or isolated movement of extremities
  • Intense muscle spasms or repeated involuntary reflex responses
  • Pain or intense tingle sensation indicative of damage to nerve fibers
  • Breathing complications
  • Problems with bladder or bowel control

Moderate to Severe Symptoms

  • Acutely painful back, neck or head pain
  • Paralysis and loss of motor coordination.  Sensation of weakness.
  • Sudden loss of balance and presence of numbness in extremities
  • Difficulty breathing or speaking

The Activities of Normal Life With A Spinal Cord Injury

When a significant spinal cord injury occurs most activities of normal life can become quite difficult.  If the injured was accustomed to living alone a live-in caregiver will be required to assist with functions such as bathing, cooking and housekeeping items.  Some individuals with severe spinal cord injury require assistance to breathe with a respirator, which requires a caregiver to assist as well.

A severe spinal cord injury also means that eating and digestion can become complicated.   In many patients with severe impairment, they may not be able to have solid foods if the stomach is not able to contract muscles to properly digest food.   For individuals with significant mobility issues a catheter is also required to assist with elimination and they are bed ridden, which brings a host of other circulatory health concerns.  Massage is required on a daily basis as well as changing the position of rest to avoid bed sores.

Since language can be impaired by a severe spinal cord injury communicating their needs becomes difficult for patients.   When impairment is significant a guardian or trustee is required for the individual who typically becomes a live-in caregiver and frequently a member of the immediately family becomes responsible for the care of the individual, including advocacy and financial administration for their needs.

Seeking legal advice immediately after a spinal cord injury is necessary to ensure that the maximum amount of insurable benefits and services are provided for the patient.   The ongoing cost of care for a patient with moderate to severe spinal cord injury requires a settlement that provides adequate care for the duration of life.  A quality legal professional will take that long-term perspective and work to get the best possible outcome for the client

Florida Spinal Cord Injury Attorneys

spinal cord injurySpine cord injuries are among the most devastating someone can suffer. The spinal cord connects the brain to nerves in the remainder of the body.

The vertebrae of the backbone protect this critical link in the body’s nervous system from injury. A spinal nerve injury may result from damage to the bones, ligaments or disks in the backbone or to the spinal cord itself. Such wounds can cause loss of function or paralysis in several limbs or in bigger portions of the body. Even less harsh wounds can end up in protracted pain and a noticeably reduced standard of living. The Nation’s Spinal Nerve Injury Statistics Center ( NSCISC ) announces there are roughly twelve thousand new spine injury cases every year in which the victim survives. Roughly 270,000 folks in the U.S. Were living alongside a spinal nerve injury in 2012. The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation claims there are roughly 6,000,000 folk living alongside paralysis.

Over half ( 57.1 % ) of spinal nerve injury victims were employed at the time of their injury. But one year after their injury, only 11.7 % were employed, the NSCISC says. 20 years after a spinal nerve injury, only 35.2 p.c of injury victims were employed, and a corresponding level of work was reported by victims thirty five years after their spinal nerve injury, the NSCISC says.

What Types Of Spinal Cord Injuries Are There?

The Florida Spinal Cord Injury Resource Center (FSCIRC) describes the spinal cord as being like a telephone line, relaying messages from the brain to the rest of the body.

“After an injury, the messages sent between the brain and the other parts of the body no longer flow through the damaged area,” the FSCIRC says. “Many times the functions of the body which are located above the injury point will continue to work properly without impairment. However, the area below the injury point will be impaired to some degree.”

Impairment after a spinal cord injury may include any combination of the following:

  • Motor (movement) ability loss
  • Sensory (feeling) ability loss
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Bowel and bladder dysfunction
  • Inability to regulate blood pressure effectively
  • Sexual dysfunction.

The Mayo Clinic and American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) describe typical injuries resulting from trauma to the spinal column as:

  • Herniated disk, also known as “slipped disk” or “ruptured disk.” Damage to the cushioning disks between vertebrae can cause the disks to bulge and irritate nerves that are nearby, including thespinal cord. This causes pain, numbness or weakness in limbs.
  • Spinal cord compression, also known as “cervical spondylotic myelopathy” or “CSM.”
  • Narrowing of the spinal canal to the point that it squeezes the spinal cord causes pain, numbness and weakness, and in most cases, it slowly grows worse. In about 5 to 20 percent of victims, CSM worsens more rapidly, the AAOS says.
  • Paralysis, or the inability to move parts of the body. When a spinal cord injury causes paralysis, it may be referred to as paraplegia (all or part of the trunk, legs and pelvic organs are paralyzed) or tetraplegia or quadriplegia (arms, hands, trunk, legs and pelvic organs are all affected).

What Are The Common Causes of Spinal Cord Injury

According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common causes of spinal cord injury in the U.S. are:

  • Motor vehicle accidents – Car and motorcycle accidents account for more than 40 percent of new spinal cord injuries every year.
  • Falls – More than 25 percent of spinal cord injuries happen in falls. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that falls are the leading cause of deaths resulting from injuries suffered in accidents among elderly people.
  • Violence – Up to 15 percent of spinal cord injuries occur because of violence, such as gunshot and knife wounds.
  • Sports –About 8 percent of spinal cord injuries are attributed to impact sports (football, basketball, hockey) or diving into shallow water.
  • Disease – Cancer, arthritis and osteoporosis can also cause spinal cord injuries.

Spinal cord injuries result in expensive medical treatment and can lead to long and difficult recoveries. People with moderate spinal cord injuries require medication and therapy to recover. Those with more severe injuries may require personal assistive devices, modifications to their homes and in-home care in addition to ongoing medication and therapy. Spinal cord injury victims suffer additional expenses from loss of work or the inability to return to work in many cases.

How Do I Legal Help after Spinal Cord Injury

Among our legal duties to our fellow citizens is to not inflict harm upon one another. When another person or company harms you or damages something that belongs to you intentionally or as a result of their negligence, they may be held liable for under Florida’s personal injury laws.

Remember: Florida residents have four years from the date of injury to file most personal injury lawsuits in the state, but some, including wrongful death lawsuits, have to be filed within two years. It is vital to contact a Florida spinal cord injury lawyer as soon as possible to ensure that your lawsuit is not barred by the statute of limitations.

A List Of Florida Spinal Cord Injury Lawyers

  • Swope Rodante, P.A. – Our firm has made it a priority to ensure clients who have suffered these catastrophic injuries due to the negligence of another person receive dedicated and focused legal representation.
  • Vanguard Attorneys – Our firm, located in Ybor City, has over 70 years of combined experience through its team of dedicated attorneys.
  • Clark and Martino, P.A. have more than 100 years of combined experience in personal injury trial law.
  • Politis & Matovina, Attorneys at Law, our Daytona Beach personal injury lawyers have represented countless victims of spinal cord injuries in Central Florida.
  • Cressman Law Firm, Attorney Mark P. Cressman understands the long road ahead families of spinal cord injury victims face. We fight hard for victims of catastrophic injuries and work with expert investigators, medical professionals, and other experts to build a compensation plan designed to take care of your injury-related needs.

Please let us know if you know of a highly qualified spinal cord attorney in Florida. and we will be happy to add them to the list. Just email us.

Spinal Cord Injury Recovery

Spinal Cord Injury:  Understanding Recovery and Prognosis

understanding recovery and prognosis of spinal cod injuryWhen spinal cord injuries occur, the diagnosis is made to identify the level of vertebrae that sustained the damage.  Depending on the location of the injury (and the number of vertebra affected) the long term prognosis for recovery can vary.  In some cases partial restoration of pre-injury physical functioning is possible while other types of spinal cord injuries can mean minimal improvement and little resolution of symptoms.

The spine is broken into different segments or levels which have unique neurological functions.  Portions of your spinal cord are linked to mobility such as walking, use of arms and other fine motor skills in other areas of the body.   When a Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) occurs it is important to identify the level on the segment that corresponds with the location of the sustained injury.  It helps physicians to determine and sometimes even predict which specific functions will be impacted.

Spinal Cord Vertebrae Segmental Levels

The Vertebral Segmental Levels are at the top of the spinal cord and include:

  • Seven (7) cervical neck vertebrae (neck)
  • Twelve (12) thoracic vertebrae (chest)

When a physician notes that a spinal cord injury has occurred at the “C” level, he or she is indicating that it falls within the Cervical segment.  A diagnosis for instance of an injury that is located at the “C2” level would be understood as the top segment of the spinal cord on the second vertebrae.   The sole purpose for mapping the injury in this method is an attempt to understand the long term effects for the patient.  If physicians can develop a preliminary estimate on the level of injury and possible impairment, then a prognosis and treatment recommendations can be made.

Some of the segments are functional and responsible for physiological impairment while others are responsible for emotional responses and sensory cognition.   There are two types of general classifications when it comes to Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) which is “complete” versus “incomplete’ according to the American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA).

There are four spinal cord segments that are used to map in the event of an injury.

  1. Cervical  (C1-C7)
  2. Thoracic (T1-T12)
  3. Lumbar (L1-L5)
  4. Sacral  (S1-S5)

Ten muscle groups are associated with the Cervical and Lumbosacral systems alone.   The spinal cord segments are responsible for most of our motor functioning which includes finger and hand dexterity, muscle flexion, mobility as well as grip, push/pull and other physical activities.  Leg and foot muscles are impacted by the Lumbar segment.

Remember that when doctors are assigning these measurements to your level of injury it is merely a way to identify and then to anticipate the amount of rehabilitation that may be required.  And even when the injury is defined by physicians it is really just an estimate.  No two people are the same and the amount of therapy and supports required is impossible to predict.

Understanding the Severity of Spinal Cord Injury

A spinal cord injury occurs after trauma has been sustained to the spinal column.  Depending on the location of the injury, the level of impairment varies from mild to severe.  In total there are more than thirty-one bones in the spinal column which are called vertebrae.   The number of vertebrae damaged during an injury and the specific location of the vertebrae will determine the full diagnoses of the impairment of the injured as well as the prognosis for recovery.

The spinal cord runs down the center of the spine connecting all the cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacral and coccygeal vertebrae.  From the spinal cord runs an intricate network of nerves which conduct electrical impulses from the brain, allowing for complex movement such as bending, standing and stretching.  All mobility in the human body is communicated through this system of nerves, and impulses are also delivered to extremities such as the legs, arms and feet.   The spinal cord also communicates with vital organs such as the lungs.    It is important to note that damage to the spinal cord can impact neurological and physiological functioning post injury and that frequently the damage is irreparable.

Spinal Cord Statistics – How Often Do They  Occur? 

According to the Center for Disease Control there are approximately 200,000 individuals living with Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) in the United States and about 12,000 new cases and injuries reported every year.  Spinal cord injuries appear to frequently involve risk taking activities and alcohol is involved in approximately 25% of reported spinal cord injuries.

The Center for Disease Control statistics pointed the finger to four key situational causes for Spinal Cord Injury (SPI).

  • 16% of injuries were sustained during an act of violence
  • 12% of SCI were caused by sports injuries
  • 22% of Spinal Cord Injuries were caused by falling
  • 46% of injuries occurred when patients were involved in a motor vehicle accident

The Real Cost of Spinal Cord Injury

Frequently Spinal Cord Injuries result from a single act of carelessness.  The split second risk taking behavior such as driving fast or operating a motor vehicle while impaired is entirely avoidable.  Unfortunately the repercussions of the injury can last a lifetime and negatively impact mobility, quality of life and even employability.  The CDC estimates that the average medical cost for care is between $15,000 to $30,000 per year and up to $3 million dollars over the course of a lifetime.

It’s not surprising that the demographics report the highest rate of injury among the group with the greatest level of risk taking.   Caucasian males younger than the age of thirty account for 50-70% of spinal cord injuries in the United States.  African American men under the age of thirty-five represent 25% of new reported spinal cord injuries.

Neurological impairments from traumatic injury to the spinal cord can result in musculoskeletal loss of mobility resulting in paraplegia, digestion and gastrointestinal problems as well as respiratory difficulties.   Psychological complications can also be part of the picture including patient depression and anxiety.

spinal cord injury treatment

Living With A Spinal Cord Injury:  The Symptoms and Complications

An injury to the spinal cord is a life altering event.   The spinal cord is an integral communication device for virtually every function in the human body from fine motor skills (hand, arm, leg and foot movement) to walking, running and bending.    The function of our vital organs relies on the messages carried from the brain through the spinal cord to our heart, lungs and more.   When the spinal cord sustains damage, it is not just mobility that is impacted but rather the entire systemic normal functioning of your body.

The Varied Spinal Cord Symptoms

There are a number of degrees of impairment when it comes to spinal cord injury.  Depending on the level of severity and the exact location of the injury, symptoms can range from difficulty with mobility to complete inability to walk, vocalize and even breathe independently.    Mild spinal cord injuries can present as restricted range of motion, but a severe injury can result in a complete loss of ability to engage in activities of normal independent living.

Mild Injury Symptoms

  • Loss of complete or isolated movement of extremities
  • Intense muscle spasms or repeated involuntary reflex responses
  • Pain or intense tingle sensation indicative of damage to nerve fibers
  • Breathing complications
  • Problems with bladder or bowel control

Moderate to Severe Symptoms

  • Acutely painful back, neck or head pain
  • Paralysis and loss of motor coordination.  Sensation of weakness.
  • Sudden loss of balance and presence of numbness in extremities
  • Difficulty breathing or speaking

The Activities of Normal Life

When a significant spinal cord injury occurs most activities of normal life can become quite difficult.  If the injured was accustomed to living alone a live-in caregiver will be required to assist with functions such as bathing, cooking and housekeeping items.  Some individuals with severe spinal cord injury require assistance to breathe with a respirator, which requires a caregiver to assist as well.

A severe spinal cord injury also means that eating and digestion can become complicated.   In many patients with severe impairment, they may not be able to have solid foods if the stomach is not able to contract muscles to properly digest food.   For individuals with significant mobility issues a catheter is also required to assist with elimination and they are bed ridden, which brings a host of other circulatory health concerns.  Massage is required on a daily basis as well as changing the position of rest to avoid bed sores.

Since language can be impaired by a severe spinal cord injury communicating their needs becomes difficult for patients.   When impairment is significant a guardian or trustee is required for the individual who typically becomes a live-in caregiver and frequently a member of the immediately family becomes responsible for the care of the individual, including advocacy and financial administration for their needs.

Seeking legal advice from a spinal cord injury attorney immediately after injury is necessary to ensure that the maximum amount of insurable benefits and services are provided for the patient.   The ongoing cost of care for a patient with moderate to severe spinal cord injury requires a settlement that provides adequate care for the duration of life.  A quality spinal cord injury lawyer will take that long-term perspective and work to get the best possible outcome for the client.