Cost of SCI

Updated 2011 by the Christopher Reeves Foundation

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) $1,023,924 $171,808
Low Tetraplegia (C5-C8) $739,874 $109,077
Paraplegia $499,023 $66,106
Incomplete motor function any level $334,170 $40,589

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) $4,53,182 $2,496,856
Low Tetraplegia (C5-C8) $3,319,533 $2,041,809
Paraplegia $2,221,596 $1,457,967
Incomplete motor function at any level $1,517,806 $1,071,309

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.