Unfortunately, even today, in the world and in Italy, data on the extent and costs associated with spinal cord injuries are limited and difficult to find.

In fact, as pointed out by FAIP Onlus, only some of the high income countries are able to provide national statistics. The other sources of data are so few and so diverse compared to the methodology of analysis that it is not possible to calculate reliable estimates of prevalence or worldwide incidence.

It is not possible to say with certainty how many people in the world are living with a spinal cord injury, but data of international incidence indicate that every year from 250,000 to 500,000 people suffer an injury that compromises the functionality of the spinal cord.

In particular, from the analysis on the available data carried out, every year in Italy about 2,500 people become paraplegic or tetraplegic. Of these: 45% due to road accidents, 20% due to accidents at work, 10% due to sports accidents, the remaining 25% for various causes including firearms. Eighty per cent of these people are between the ages of 10 and 40 and therefore have a long life expectancy, which is consequently a high social and personal cost for themselves and their families. Around 75,000 people live in Italy with spinal cord injuries.

As can be deduced, the level and severity of a spinal cord injury has a significant influence on the costs to be borne by the individual and the individuals in the household. A distinction can be made between direct and indirect costs: direct costs appear to be higher in the first year after the onset of a spinal cord injury but, over the course of life, indirect costs often exceed direct costs.

Historically, conditions of paraplegia and tetraplegia were associated with high mortality rates. Today, however, in high-income countries, these injuries are seen no longer as the end of a useful or productive life but more as a personal and social challenge that can be overcome. This change reflects the improvement of medicine, so people manage to survive, live and thrive after the injury.

The global effects of SCI on the individual, and also on society as a whole, therefore depend on a wide range of factors, including:

the age at which the accident occurs (whether early or late in a person’s productive life);

the level and degree of injury;

the availability and timing of resources and services;

the environment in which the person lives – physical, social, economic and aptitude;

The reported data have been collected from journal articles, government publications and reports of prospective and retrospective studies that refer to data from the LM Registers and Master Registers, hospital admissions and discharge data and health investigation data.

The one presented is a revised extract of the information available on the website of the Federation of Italian Associations of people with spinal cord injuries..


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