The Costs of Living with a Spinal Cord Injury

I’ve known for a while that SCIs are expensive. But I didn’t really get it until I came across some information on the Christopher Reeve website that really put it into perspective. I’ve highlighted some of the most stark bit of information below and would definitely encourage you to take a look!

The Costs of Living with SCI

According to The University of Alabama National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the costs of living with SCI can be considerable, and vary greatly due to the severity of injury.

Neurologic level and extent of lesion: Persons with tetraplegia have sustained injuries to one of the eight cervical segments of the spinal cord; those with paraplegia have lesions in the thoracic, lumbar, or sacral regions of the spinal cord. Since 2005, the most frequent neurologic category at discharge of persons reported to the database is incomplete tetraplegia (39.5%), followed by complete paraplegia (22.1%), incomplete paraplegia (21.7%) and complete tetraplegia (16.3%). Less than 1% of persons experienced complete neurologic recovery by hospital discharge. Over the last 15 years, the percentage of persons with incomplete tetraplegia has increased while complete paraplegia and complete tetraplegia have decreased slightly.

Average Yearly Expenses

Severity of Injury

First Year

Each Subsequent Year

High Tetraplegia (C1-C4)



Low Tetraplegia (C5-C8)






Incomplete motor function at any level



12 days: length of initial hospitalization following injury in acute care units.

37 days: average stay in rehabilitation unit.

89.8: percentage of all spinal cord injured individuals discharged from hospitals to private homes.

6.2: percentage who are discharged to nursing homes.

Estimated Lifetime Costs by Age of Injury

Severity of Injury

25 Years Old

50 Years Old

High Tetraplegia (C1-C4)



Low Tetraplegia (C5-C8)






Incomplete motor function at any level



By developing therapies for those who are already spinal cord injured and preventing new injuries, the United States would save as much as $400 billion on future direct and indirect lifetime costs.

Source: National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC) located at The UAB Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention



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