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More Seniors Suffering Spinal Cord Injury

Falls are a major cause of the increase, U.S. study finds

FRIDAY, March 23, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- The number of spinal cord injures among people aged 70 and older has risen more than fivefold in the past three decades, U.S. researchers report.

This jump in cases "is likely the result of an aging population and propensity for these patients to have SCI (spinal cord injury) with minor trauma," researcher Dr. James Harrop, an assistant professor of neurological and orthopedic surgery at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, said in a prepared statement.

His team reviewed the cases of almost 3,500 spinal cord injury patients treated at Jefferson Regional Spinal Cord Injury Center from 1978 to 2006. Overall, yearly admissions increased nearly 60 percent since the early 1980s, but admission for patients aged 70 and older increased more than 580 percent.

In 1980, elderly people accounted for 4.2 percent of patients admitted to the spinal cord injury center. By 2006, that had increased to 15.4 percent.

"Falls continue to be the predominant mechanism for geriatric spinal cord injuries with 74 percent of geriatric injuries resulting from a fall in this series," Harrop said.

The study also found that elderly spinal cord patients were about eight times more likely than younger patients to die in hospital or within a year of their injury. The rate of death during hospitalization was 3.2 percent for patients younger than age 70, compared with 27.7 percent for patients aged 70 and older.

Death rates in the year after a spinal cord injury were 5.4 percent for patients younger than age 70 and 44.4 percent for those aged 70 and older.

The findings were presented at a recent meeting of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.

More information

For tips on preventing spinal cord injuries, head to the U.S. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

SOURCE: Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, news release, March 2007
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