Facts

Facts Spinal Cord Img

Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal cord injury is currently a life-long burden on both the person impacted and society at large.

In Australia around one person sustains a spinal cord injury every day, and many of these individuals are under the age of 24. There are currently 15,000 Australians living with spinal cord injury. Aside from the personal trauma, the cost to our society to care for spinal injured people is $2 billion a year. Without an effective cure for spinal cord injury, the emotional and financial costs to individuals, their families and to our community are life-long.

Sci Facts New@2x

SCI Facts

  • There are over 15,000 Australians living with paralysis.
  • 400 new cases each year
  • 84% of all injuries occur in males
  • 17 – 24 years of age most likely to sustain an injury
  • Quadriplegia, paralysis of all four limbs, occurs in 50% of all these cases.
  • Young men in the prime of their life are most likely to sustain a spinal cord injury, being four times more likely to sustain spinal cord injuries than women.
  • The estimated lifetime cost per incidence of quadriplegia is $9.5 million. The total annual cost of spinal cord injury in Australia is estimated to be $2 billion.
Facts Spinal Cord Img

Effects of SCI

Spinal cord injury can happen to anyone at any time. It is not just about being in a wheelchair, there is also a lack of control, independence and freedom. The type of disability which occurs after the spinal cord is injured depends on the severity of injury and the location of the injured segment of the spinal cord. A damaged or severed spinal cord means the region of the body below the level of injury becomes paralysed. In cases of complete paralysis, all functions below the level of injury will be lost.

After a spinal cord injury, the nerve fibres, which send motor signals from the brain to the torso and the limbs are impaired and this causes paralysis of the muscles. Destruction of sensory nerve fibres leads to loss of sensations such as touch, pain and the ability to distinguish between hot and cold. Less well-known is that spinal cord injury can also severely limit bladder and bowel control, sexual performance, blood pressure and sometimes the ability to breathe unaided.

Spinal Cord Injury Levels

Interact with the spine and vertebrae below to learn more.

Spinal Cord Injury Levels

Cervical

C1-C4
Paralysis in arms, hands, trunk and legs. Patient may not be able to breathe on their own and ability to speak is sometimes impaired or reduced. Requires complete assistance with activities of daily living, such as eating, dressing, bathing and getting in or out of bed.
C5-C6
Paralysis in wrists, hands, trunk and legs. Patient can raise their arms and bend elbows. Can speak and use diaphragm, but breathing will be weakened. Will need assistance with most activities of daily living, but once in a power wheelchair, can move around independently.

C7-C8

Paralysis in hands, trunk and legs. Has elbow extension and some hand movement. May be able to grasp and release objects. Most can straighten their arm and have normal movement of their shoulders. Independent with most activities of daily living, but may need assistance with more difficult tasks.

Thoracic

T1-T5
Paralysis in trunk and legs. Injuries usually affect the chest, abdominal, mid-back muscles, and the legs. Have normal arm, hand and upper-body movement. Independent with most activities of daily living. Typically use a manual wheelchair.
T6-T12
Paralysis in trunk and legs. Injuries usually affect the abdominal, lower back muscles, and the legs. Have normal arm, hand and upper-body movement. Independent with most activities of daily living. Typically use a manual wheelchair.

Lumbar

L1-L5
Injuries generally result in some loss of function in the hips and legs. Depending on strength in the legs, the inured person may need a wheelchair and may also walk with braces.

Sacral

S1-S5
Injuries generally result in some loss of function in the hips and legs. People with a sacral spinal cord injury will most likely be able to walk.

Coccyx

Injuries generally result in some loss of function in the hips and legs. People with a sacral spinal cord injury will most likely be able to walk.
Facts Iceberg Img@2x

The inability to walk is just the tip of the iceberg
for those with SCI

Spasms
Pressure sores
Loss of sexual function
Inability to feel hot or cold
Loss of bladder and bowel function
50% loss of breathing capacity
Psychological battle
Loss of independence... even cleaning own teeth!
Constant 24-hour neuropathic pain

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