A spinal cord injury (SCI) has a significant impact on a person’s sensory functions, motor functions, or both, making many of the daily tasks we take for granted a challenge. While this type of traumatic injury is somewhat rare, there are still hundreds of thousands of individuals living with spinal cord injuries who have to cope with these challenges every single day, and thousands more who are newly affected and diagnosed each year.
But exactly how many people are affected by a spinal cord injury, and who is most likely to be affected? By reading the following spinal cord injury statistics, you’ll learn facts about the prevalence, demographics, health care expenses, and life expectancies associated with SCIs that you may not have known before.
In the United States, the current spinal cord injury prevalence (persons living with an SCI) is estimated to be between 243,000 and 347,000 persons. How many people are affected by a spinal cord injury per year? About 54 per million, or 12,500 per year.
Spinal cord injury statistics worldwide are more difficult to estimate, but according to the World Health Organization (WHO), it’s believed that there are between 250,000 and 500,000 new spinal cord injuries every year.
Annual global spinal cord injury incidence (new instances of SCI’s) is estimated to be between 40 and 80 cases per million. But currently, there is no truly accurate estimate of global spinal cord injury prevalence or incidence – for a variety of reasons, including limited access to data in developing countries, we don’t yet know how many people are affected by a spinal cord injury worldwide.
The vast majority (more than 90%) of all SCIs are the result of a physical, preventable accident such as motorcycle crash, fall, or an act of violence.
In the United States, motor vehicle accidents are the most common cause of a spinal cord injury, making up 38.4% of all cases. This is followed by falls (30.5%), violence (13.5%), sports-related incidents (8.9%, two-thirds of which are diving related), and lastly, medical/surgical incidents (4.7%). The remaining 4% of cases are caused by disease, cancer, infection, or congenital problems.
In the UK, where spinal cord injury prevalence is lower than it is in the US, the top two causes of a SCI are reversed – falls are the number one cause at 41.7%, followed closely by motor vehicle accidents at 36.8%.
An SCI can affect anyone of any age, but several demographic trends have emerged. For example, spinal cord injury statistics tell us that young, white men are most commonly affected, followed by elderly persons over the age of 70.
The latest report from the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC) provides the following spinal cord injury facts about the type of people most likely to be affected in the United States:
The majority (60%) of SCIs are incomplete, meaning that motor and/or sensory function is only partially impaired below the point of injury. On the other hand, only 40% are classified as complete, meaning that the spinal cord has been severed fully and all sensory and motor function has been lost below the point of injury.
One of the more surprising spinal cord injury facts is that less than 1% (0.4%) of SCI survivors make a full recovery – for the vast majority, the damage is lifelong.
Health care experiences and costs for an individual with a spinal cord injury vary by country and largely depend on the severity of the injury.
Obtaining accurate spinal cord injury statistics worldwide is difficult because there is no standardised method of obtaining information across regions, and data from developing countries is scarce. However, we do have accurate spinal cord injury statistics regarding health care in the United States:
According to spinal cord injury statistics from WHO, people with a spinal cord injury are 2-5 times more likely to prematurely pass away than individuals without an SCI – these odds worsen considerably in lower-income countries where access to medical care is limited.
The following spinal cord injury facts are about the mortality risks associated with an SCI: