Spinal Cord Injuries: Tetraplegia/Quadriplegia
 
June 19, 2004
 
Many of us have heard of the word or even know someone who is a quadraplegic. This is an old term, which is still commonly used for a person who is unable to move the upper or lower body. Though quadriplegia is a familiar and commonly used term, "tetraplegia" is the accurate word to be used for this condition. The definition of tetraplegia/quadriplegia is the inability to move ones arms and legs. This is a result of a spinal cord injury (SPI) to the top of the spine or backbone. The closer the injury is to the brain or the higher the injury is on the spinal column will determine how much movement and sensation will be altered or lost and what parts of the body below the injury will be affected. Injury to the cervical vertebrae can be divided into three groups. Injury to the 1st ? 3rd cervical vertebrae (C1- C3) is referred to as a high cervical injury. With this type of injury respiratory support is usually required. Injury to the 4th ? 6th cervical (C4 ? C6) or mid cervical injury can require respiratory support initially. Injury to the 7th cervical vertebra (C1) or 1st thoracic vertebra (T1) is referred to as a low cervical cord injury and requires no respiratory support. A person who has suffered a cervical injury is not able to move his arms or legs or will have minimal/restricted movement/control of upper extremities. ?52% of spinal cord injuries is paralysis of both the upper and lower parts of the body,? according to the Spinal Cord Injury Center.
 
There are approximately 150,000 people in America who are tetraplegic due to motor vehicle accidents, gunshot wounds, motor cycle accidents, falls and diving incidents. There are more male than female tetraplegics. The common age is between 20 and 40 years of age. The most common site for a cervical spine injury occurs between C5 and C7. The most common cause of death is respiratory aliments.
 
A cervical spine injury is catastrophic. Treatment of this type of injury begins at the scene of the accident. This type of injury costs insurance companies millions of dollars each year. The average hospital stay immediately after the injury is 15 days at a cost of $140,000. This is followed by an average of 44 days in a rehabilitation unit. The average yearly expense for medical care and living expense for a High tetraplegic (C1-C4) is $572,178 the first year with subsequent years costing $102, 491. The average yearly expense for medical care and living expense for a low tetraplegic (C5-C8) is $369,488 with each subsequent year costing $41, 983. The estimated lifetime costs for a 25 year-old with a high tetraplegic (C1-C4) is $2,185,665 and for a low tetraplegic (C5-C8) is $1,235,481. The role of a life care planner is projecting expected medical/non-medical necessities. Therefore planning the expectant needs of a tetraplegic is a valuable tool in the healthcare continuum. The statistical figures of this article came from the Spinal Cord Injury Center.com. Contributed by Bonnie Rupke RN CLNC, Rupke & Associates LLC, PO Box 615, Hays, KS 67061, Phone/Fax (785)625-4464
 
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