Large number of spinal cord injuries tracked among elderly

By: Emily Lunardo | Health News | Sunday, July 12, 2015 - 05:30 AM

spinal cord injuries in elderlyResearchers at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center have uncovered that spinal cord injuries are not only on the rise, but are happening more frequently among the elderly.

The spinal cord is a long tube-like structure that runs from the brain stem down to the tip of the spine. It is essential to the human body to carry messages from the brain to other parts of the body. Because spinal cord injuries can often lead to paralysis it puts added strain on rehabilitation centers as well as hospitals as these individuals require long-term care.

Data from 63,109 patients with acute spinal cord injury from 1993 to 2012 was analyzed to better determine populations most at risk and how to prevent these types of injuries.

“We find that spinal cord injury as a result of falls is a major public health issue in the older patients, and we need to find what the causes for that are and appropriately design interventions,” said lead author, Nitin Jain.

Prior to this study information was limited on trends in spinal cord injury and who was most prone to have one. Researchers found spinal cord injury among younger men decreased, but men between the ages of 65 and 74 increased to 131 cases per million. Prior rates were 84 cases per million.

Although researchers noted an increase in spinal cord injuries they are still unsure as to why it has occurred. One hypothesis is that seniors are more active today putting them at higher risk for this type of injury.

The findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.


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