Tuesday, September 01, 2009

New data on Paralysis Could Impact Future Treatment Strategies

Sufficient information on the prevalence of Americans living with paralysis and spinal cord injuries (SCI) has always been hard to come by. Most information cited in educational literature and on many Web sites regarding paralysis and SCI is extremely outdated. This presents numerous hurdles in devising new or evaluating existing policies, programs, and services for people living with these types of disabilities.

In 2004, The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation brought together a task force of more than 60 scientists, scholars, health advocates, and experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and numerous universities, policy centers, and nonprofit health care organizations to identify what was needed to improve the quality of life for people living with paralysis. In order to complete this complex initiative, the Paralysis Task Force first needed to obtain more recent data on the individuals they were trying to assist.

With support from the University of New Mexico’s Center for Development and Disability (CDD) in partnership with the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation’s Paralysis Resource Center (PRC), researchers designed and conducted a survey of more than 33,000 households across the country––one of the largest population-based samples of any disability ever conducted. The new data demonstrates that paralysis may be dramatically more widespread than previously thought.

Below are some of the report’s major findings:
  • Approximately 1.9 percent of the U.S. population, or 5,596,000 people reported they were living with some form of paralysis, defined by the study as a central nervous system disorder resulting in difficulty or inability to move the upper or lower extremities. This is about one-third more Americans living with paralysis than previously estimated (4 million).
  • The leading cause of paralysis was stroke (29 percent), followed by spinal cord injury (23 percent) and multiple sclerosis (17 percent).
  • Data indicate that 1,275,000 people in the United States are living with spinal cord injury—more than five times the number of Americans previously estimated in 2007 (255,702).


These findings have major implications for the treatment of spinal cord and paralysis-related diseases—not only for those living with these conditions, but also for their families, caregivers, health care providers, and employers. As the number of people living with paralysis and spinal cord injuries increases, for example, so do the costs associated with treating them. Each year, paralysis and spinal cord injuries cost the health care system billions of dollars. Spinal cord injuries alone cost roughly $40.5 billion annually—a 317 percent increase from costs estimated in 1998 ($9.7 billion),” the report states.

If you have yet to read this important report conducted by the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, you can access the 28-page PDF here.

By NY Disability Examiner Tom Scott

Labels: , , ,