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How will my spinal cord injury affect me as I age?

A spinal cord injury (“SCI”) is the impairment of sensory and/or muscle function due to damage of the nerves in the spinal cord, which can be caused by the trauma of a major motor vehicle accident. Across Canada, more than 86,000 people live with spinal cord injuries, and that number is expected to increase to 121,000 in the next decade due to the aging population.   Many spinal cord injuries happen at an early stage in a person’s life. Each year, almost half of new traumatic spinal cord injuries brought about by external causes such as car accidents, falls, and sports injuries occur in people age 15 to 39. Given that many people are injured at a relatively young age, a significant concern is the effect a spinal cord injury will have as a person ages.

Life expectancy, secondary health complications and spinal cord injuries

Over the last few decades, life expectancy has improved for people with spinal cord injuries due to better survival from the initial trauma (for example, improved medical care immediately after a major car accident), but also due to improved recognition and treatment of secondary health complications which arise over time following the initial spinal cord injury. If not properly treated, these complications can significantly diminish quality of life. For example, SCI can cause paralysis, particularly for those who sustain catastrophic injury as a result of a major car accident. Spasticity is a secondary complication of paralysis that varies from mild muscle stiffness to severe, involuntary muscle contractions or movements of the limbs. Over the years, spasticity can contribute to a number of difficulties such as reduced mobility and function, skin breakdown, bladder and bowel issues and sleep problems.

Acceleration of normal age-related changes for those with a spinal cord injury

While people who sustain traumatic spinal cord injury are living longer, the corollary is that an SCI can accelerate the normal aging process. As people age, they experience natural changes in their health and functional abilities. These changes can be accelerated or cause additional complications for people with a spinal cord injury. For example:

  • Changes to the urinary system are part of the normal aging process. A spinal cord injury may have caused bowel and bladder dysfunction (e.g., “neurogenic bladder”), which can result in complications such as an increased risk of infection as the injured person ages.
  • Changes to the skin and reduced circulation are also part of the normal aging process. If the SCI has caused quadriplegia (also known as tetraplegia) or paraplegia there is an increased risk of pressure sores and infection related to these changes.

Modification in equipment, assistive devices, or new therapies may be needed due to changes associated with aging.

Get legal advice from a top Vancouver personal injury lawyer

If you suffered a spinal cord injury as a result of a motor vehicle accident, contact Simpson, Thomas & Associates at (604) 689-8888 to request a free consultation. We have considerable experience handling ICBC claims involving spinal cord injuries, including complex personal injury claims involving quadriplegia and paraplegia. Our highly experienced lawyers will assist you in getting the help you need and develop your claim against ICBC to get the compensation you deserve.

 

 

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