In recent decades, medical innovations have lengthened the life expectancy of individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI). A substantial proportion of reduced mortality can be attributed to advances in treatment for respiratory and cardiac complications associated with SCI. Despite these important advances, the average life expectancy of a person with SCI remains shorter than that of the general population, suggesting a need to investigate and address other common causes of death among people with SCI.
Research & Statistics for Causes of Death Among Spinal Cord Injury Patients
A new study from the Czech Republic analyzed medical records from 990 SCI patients who were admitted to the Spinal Cord Unit at the University Hospital Motol between 2004 to 2018. Researchers were most interested in the mortality rate among this cohort and the causes and timing of death among those who passed away from their injuries. As expected, based on the existing literature, they found that respiratory (14.9% of deaths) and cardiac (11.5%) complications were among the most frequent causes of death in the study population.
They also determined that septicemia, or blood infection, caused by pressure injuries (i.e., bedsores) or urinary tract infection (UTI) was the leading cause of mortality, accounting for more than 1 in 4 deaths among the SCI patients. Cardiac disease and respiratory complications were the leading causes of death in the year immediately following SCI, while those who died more than a year later were more likely to die from pressure injuries, UTI, or suicide.
Nearly 1 in 10 SCI patients went on to die by suicide. Those who did were more likely to be male and younger than 60 years. Importantly, none of the patients who died by suicide had a diagnosis of psychiatric illness prior to sustaining SCI, suggesting that suicide occurred primarily as a result of poor quality of life in the post-injury period. The study authors noted that the Czech Republic is poorly equipped to reintegrate people with disabilities into the community and the workplace, which can lead to feelings of isolation and helplessness.
These findings indicate an urgent need to address pressure injuries and suicide among people with SCI, particularly in younger men who sustained their injuries more than a year ago. Policymakers and public health advocates should collaborate to ensure that all individuals with SCI receive adequate supports and services to ensure community participation, facilitate employment, provide mental health care, and elevate quality of life.
Works Cited: Kriz J, Sediva K, & Maly M. Causes of death after spinal cord injury in Czech Republic. Spinal Cord. (2021).
(If you or a loved one are experiencing a suicide crisis, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline can help.)
Consult with Our Experienced Spinal Cord Accident Attorneys Today
According to The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, there are about 12,500 new cases of spinal cord injuries each year. Most spinal cord injuries are caused by car accidents, falls, gunshot wounds, sports injuries and medical or surgical complications. At Scarlett Law Group, our compassionate legal professionals understand that SCI can be extremely painful and damaging. We also know that the impact of such injuries can be complex and long-lasting. If you or someone you know has suffered a spinal cord injury, then please reach out to our law firm today to discuss all of your legal options with a qualified attorney.
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