Traumatic spinal cord injuries are on the rise, especially among older individuals, says a study by an Indian-origin researcher.
While incidence rates among the younger male population in the US dropped during 1993-2012, rates for men ages 65 to 74 jumped to 131 cases per million from 84 cases per million.
One in five with such injuries dies in the hospital, said the study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
“Spinal cord injury is a major public health issue in the older patients,” said lead author Nitin Jain, associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Vanderbilt University Medical Centre in the US.
The researchers analysed data from 63,109 patients with acute traumatic spinal cord injury from 1993 to 2012.
“We don’t really know the exact reason for why there is an increased incidence of falls that cause spinal cord injury,” Jain said, but noted that “older adults are likely much more active now, putting them at a higher risk.”
For example, 70-year-olds today may be more likely to go skiing than 70-year-olds would have 20 years ago.
“We find that the portion of patients who have surgical procedures is also increasing over time,” he said.
People with traumatic spinal cord injury are often disabled for life, and require lifelong rehabilitation. That impacts their lives, because it is more difficult to find work when disabled. It also adds more demand for rehabilitation health care.
Most patients regain some function after an injury, Jain said adding, “most of these patients will have need for health care services throughout their life, many of them pretty intensive.”