What Are the Long-Term Costs of Treating a Spinal Cord Injury?

Published on Apr 27, 2022 at 8:50 am in Spinal Cord Injuries.

spinal cord chart

Whether considering it from a physical, emotional, or financial stance, seeking medical care is no small undertaking. Patients who require long-term, ongoing treatment for chronic illnesses and injuries understand just how much is at play here. However, one of the biggest barriers often comes down to medical bills.

Victims living with spinal cord injuries face monumental costs in terms of treatment. Medical bills can quickly outpace your earning potential, if you are even able to work at all after suffering an injury as serious as this. Whether you were injured in a car accident, at the hands of a doctor, during a slip-and-fall, or in another type of accident, you should not have to shoulder the burden of these costs alone.

What Is a Spinal Cord Injury?

According to the Mayo Clinic, a spinal cord injury occurs when there is “damage to any part of the spinal cord or nerves at the end of the spinal canal.” Spinal cord injuries are catastrophic, and victims often suffer permanent changes at and below the site of their injury, including in regard to:

A spinal cord injury may be either complete or incomplete. A complete spinal cord injury involves losing all feeling and motor function at and below the injury site. An incomplete spinal cord injury may only involve partial loss of feeling and function.

Paralysis resulting from a spinal cord injury may also be referred to as tetraplegia or paraplegia, depending on which parts of the body are affected.

Spinal Cord Injury Treatments

Although medical researchers are continually performing research on new treatment options for spinal cord injuries, there are currently no treatments that can undo or reverse spinal cord damage. Instead, treatment plans typically focus on preventing any additional injury and empowering patients to live life to the fullest.

Your medical care team should help you set long-term goals for your spinal cord injury treatments so that you can accurately measure how well things are progressing. Some common goals for spinal cord injury treatments include:

  • Potentially restoring partial nerve function in incomplete injuries
  • Minimizing the risk of other chronic health conditions
  • Enhancing independent behaviors and functions
  • Preventing sexual dysfunction or restoring sexual performance
  • Improving blood pressure and body temperature regulation
  • Lowering pain levels

Every spinal cord injury victim is different, so your expected maximum medical improvement may look different from other patients. Always listen to your doctor and medical team, and seek a second opinion if you are concerned that you are not receiving adequate care that supports your projected recovery.

How Much Does It Cost To Live With a Spinal Cord Injury?

The financial burden of a spinal cord injury is truly overwhelming. Medical bills associated with spinal cord injuries can also vary widely depending on different factors like the severity of your injury and how quickly you received treatment.

At the Hospital

Researchers who published their findings in a study titled “Economic impact of traumatic spinal cord injuries in the United States” report that hospitals can save approximately $14,000 on resource utilization when spinal cord injury victims undergo surgery within the first 72 hours. Receiving surgical intervention in this time frame is also shown to improve neurological recovery and save an average of $45,000 in additional medical costs for the patient.

Saving $45,000 on early intervention may initially sound great, but it is often a drop in the bucket compared to the long-term costs associated with spinal cord injuries.

Hospital stays are another factor to consider when discussing medical bills. The average spinal cord injury victim will spend 12 days in the hospital, twice as long as the typical stay for other illnesses and injuries. You can expect to be billed $50,000 for surgical interventions and another $30,000 for medical management during this stay.

During Rehabilitation and Physical Therapy

Nearly 85% of spinal cord injury victims with private health insurance receive referrals to rehabilitation services when they are discharged from the hospital, compared with only 55.5% of those on government health insurance and 55.2% of uninsured patients.

The financial burden of rehabilitation services can vary widely between these groups, and often in different ways. If you receive rehabilitative services like physical therapy, you may incur tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills over the course of a single year. However, you may also be less likely to be re-hospitalized, where medical bills can pile up across days and weeks.

Comorbidities and Complications

Living with a spinal cord injury puts you at risk for additional comorbidities and complications, the costs of which are not cheap. The steep cost is often due to the severe nature of a given complication. Medical professionals and caregivers should do everything within their abilities to prevent the two most expensive complications, as the related costs of treatment can be exceptionally high:

  • Stage IV pressure ulcers: $129,000
  • Sepsis: $27,000

You might also be at a heightened risk for urinary tract infections (UTIs), pneumonia, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, muscle spasms, bowel problems, and more.

The Long-Term Costs of Treating a Spinal Cord Injury

Depending on the severity of your injury, age, and other factors, it could cost anywhere from $1.2 million to $5.1 million to treat your spinal cord injury during your lifetime. If your injury was the result of another person’s negligence, you should not have to shoulder these costs on your own.

The Jackson personal injury lawyers at Pittman Roberts & Welsh, PLLC have a combined 150 years of experience guiding victims through personal injury, medical malpractice, and premises liability claims. We have what it takes to help injury victims just like you secure the financial compensation they need to cover medical bills, replace lost incomes, and address any damages they may have.

There is a time limit on seeking compensation. Do not miss your opportunity to hold a negligent party responsible for the injuries they caused. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation, during which you can discuss the details of your case with one of our knowledgeable and compassionate attorneys.

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