The life expectancy of a quadriplegic depends largely on the severity of the injury and a person’s age. Unfortunately, quadriplegia substantially increases the risk of several serious, life-threatening conditions. Additionally, medical costs associated with treating quadriplegic patients is often substantial.
What Is Quadriplegia?
Also called tetraplegia, quadriplegia is the paralysis of the body from at least the shoulders down and is caused primarily by spinal cord injuries, specifically those to the cervical area. The most common causes of quadriplegia are:
- Motor vehicle accidents (46%)
- Falls (22%)
- Violence (16%)
- Sports injuries(12%)
Increased Health Risks
When people suffer spinal cord injuries that cause paralysis, the injuries actually interfere with communication between the brain and body. This can lead to a variety of other problems, especially cardiovascular and pulmonary ones. Quadriplegics are at much higher risk for:
- Blood clots (deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolisms)
- Bed sores
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
Deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism both refer to blood clots, with the former usually occurring in the legs and the latter in the lungs. Citing Sweis’s and Biller’s “Systemic Complications of Spinal Cord Injury,” Science Daily stated that as many as 90% of patients with spinal cord injuries develop serious problems besides paralysis like deep vein thrombosis, and as many as half develop pulmonary embolisms.
Bed sores, or pressure ulcers, develop when one’s body remains in the same position for long periods. They often begin as superficial wounds, but they can get serious over time. They are most prevalent in immobile and incontinent patients, and many SCI patients are both.
Patients can avoid bed sores by changing positions periodically when lying down or sitting and through the use of air mattresses. One should seek immediate medical attention if bed sores are foul smelling, exhibit pus-like draining, or are accompanied by a fever.
People who suffer acute spinal cord injuries (SCI) are at a much higher risk for respiratory conditions, particularly pneumonia. Pneumonia, a serious lung infection, affects about half of all SCI patients within the first five days of hospitalization.
Urinary Tract Infections
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are much more dangerous in people with SCI than others. People with SCI usually develop bladder and bowel dysfunction, and they often have to manage bladder function through the use of catheters. This keeps the bladder and kidneys healthy, but catheters are often unable to fully empty the bladder, so bacteria is more likely to build up and cause UTIs.
UTIs are also a lot harder to get rid of in quadriplegic patients, so those patients should strive to decrease the risk of UTIs by staying hydrated and emptying their bladders as completely as they can.
Cost of SCI Care
According to the National Institutes of Health, four factors account for nearly 60% of SCI patents’ total hospital costs:
- Development of pneumonia
- The use of mechanical ventilation
- Whether surgery is required
- Whether doctors had to perform a tracheostomy (insert a tube in the windpipe to aid breathing)
SCI care can be extremely expensive, costing as much as $1 million in the first year and $5 million over the course of an SCI patient’s life. This is one of the reasons why it’s important for SCI patients to consult a personal injury attorney who has experience in cases involving quadriplegia.
Quadriplegia injury lawyers help provide the highest compensation for present and future losses, and SCI patients will often need every penny of it. If your quadriplegia was caused by a preventable mistake, the responsible party also has the responsibility for covering the cost of your treatment.