Paralysis, Spinal Cord Injury Prevalence Surges

July 19, 2009

More than 5.5 million US adults, or nearly 2% of the adult population, have some type of paralysis,

More than 5.5 million US adults, or nearly 2% of the adult population, have some type of paralysis, according to 2008 data collected by researchers at the Center for Development and Disability at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine (UNMSM), Albuquerque (Figure 1) for a study funded by the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, in cooperation with the CDC. This is a significant increase from the 2007 estimate of 4 million persons. Among Americans with paralysis, more than 1.27 million adults (0.4% of the population) are living with spinal cord injury (SCI), which is about 5 times the number previously estimated in 2007 (255,702 adults). The revised paralysis and SCI prevalence estimates in

the study are based on self-reports from individuals rather than on state registry and hospitalization figures, which were used for earlier studies, the researchers noted. Anthony G. Cahill, PhD, director, division of disability and health policy at UNMSM, and colleagues at UNMSM and the CDC surveyed 33,348 US households for the study, which was released on April 21. The researchers found that more men than women reported living with paralysis (54% vs 46%) and living with paralysis caused by SCI (61% vs 39%). Paralysis was most prevalent among respondents aged 40 to 49 years (24.4%), followed by those aged 50 to 59 years (22.8%). Higher percentages of respondents aged 40 to 49 years (30.1%) and 50 to 59 years (24.9%) reported paralysis caused by SCI.

The leading cause of paralysis among US adults was stroke (29%), followed by SCI (23%) and multiple sclerosis (17%) (Figure 2). Workplace accidents (28%), motor vehicle accidents (24%), and sporting or recreation accidents (16%) accounted for more than two-thirds of SCIs.

Although the researchers did not study costs, total annual costs attributed to SCI were $40.5 billion in 2008, up 317% from $9.7 billion in 1998 (Figure 3).