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What are medical expenses associated with a spinal cord injury?

The costs for treating a severe injury caused by an accident can be considerable. Extensive hospital treatments, long-term rehabilitation or a lifetime of continuous care may be necessary. Costs don't remain stagnant -- medical expenses for Chicago spinal cord injury patients increase year after year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report detailing the average costs associated with 2011 spinal cord injuries. The report gives victims, families, lawyers and juries deciding liability claims a snapshot of the financial requirements for care. Even a report that's already a few years old shows how staggering these costs are.

Average expenses were categorized according to the type of spinal cord injury patients had. Some spinal cord injuries like quadriplegia, also known as tetraplegia, are more disabling than others. Paraplegia involves the partial or total loss of function in the lower body, while tetraplegia or quadriplegia includes additional paralysis of the arms, trunk or both.

Spinal cord injuries produce complete or incomplete losses of function affecting areas of the body below the place of injury. Tetraplegics suffer injuries to the cervical vertebrae of the spine, while paraplegics' injuries fall in the lumbar, sacral or thoracic spinal regions.

Patients in the cost analysis were divided into high or low tetraplegia categories, according to vertebrae areas affected by injuries. High tetraplegia included cervical injuries in the C1 through C4 area. Low tetraplegia included patients with C5 through C8 injuries.

Annual and lifetime medical expenses for high tetraplegia victims were the highest among all spinal cord injury patients. Lifetime health care costs added up to about $4.5 million for high tetraplegia patients injured at age 25. Life-long medical bills averaged about $2.5 million for patients who suffered high tetraplegia injuries at age 50.

These medical expenses may be defrayed by compensation awarded through Illinois courts for spinal cord injury claims, when victims' injuries are caused by someone else's negligence.

Source: Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, "The Costs of Living with SCI," accessed March. 27, 2015

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