The cost of spinal cord injuries for Australians

The cost of spinal cord injuries for Australians

Spinal cord injury is an incapacitating condition that impacts the life of the injured individual in many ways. Proper functionality of most or all of the daily routines may be affected which can include not only life routines at home but also expand to include the inability to work as well as participate in social and community events.

Many of such injuries are inflicted upon young adults with a majority occurring from road accidents. And with a fall in mortality rates due to current advancements in medical treatments, it only means that such severely injured individuals are living with the repercussions of the injury for a life time. To take care of injured individuals and expenses incurred by caregivers means that the costs involved in spinal cord injury treatment are enormous.

Basically individuals suffering from a spinal cord injury are looking at lifetime costs due to the nature of their disability. Plus expenses are also incurred when there is a burden of disease, provision of attendant care and other healthcare facilities involved. Expenses involving the health system can include medical and paramedical costs along with hospital stay and ambulance services. Some patients may need assistive devices and equipment to carry on with daily living skills while others may have to rely on long term care costs such as respite care, assisted accommodation, personal attendants or staying in supported community services.

The nature of the injury will also impact expenses as quadriplegic injuries will cost more than paraplegic injuries. Based on the different facets of the treatment procedure individuals who suffer from paraplegia incur, lifetime costs may be up to $5 million per incidence while quadriplegic injuries experience lifetime costs of about $9.5 million per incidence.

For the individual, the chances of re-entering the work force are minimized after the injury leading to a loss in productivity and income. Individuals may also not be able to go to work as regularly as before leading to higher absenteeism. Other costs comprise the use of equipment and modifications such as the use of specialised vehicles, motorised or manual wheelchairs, and home assistance devices such as grab bars, electrical beds, commode or shower chair on wheels, special mattresses and cushions and others.

Some individuals may need ventilation devices which can be very expensive. Often one aspects of spinal cord injury that gets sidelined is the ability of the body to regulate its temperature. This means that the person loses the ability to regulate body temperature below the point of injury.

For many patients this means that they become more susceptible to heat intolerance as well as hypothermia. To keep surrounding temperatures comfortable, people have to use their home cooling systems more frequently. This is another cost that many spinal cord injury sufferers have to face. The cost accumulates as growing energy bills that come as an additional out-of-pocket expense for such individuals.

Therefore the cost of spinal cord injury are strictly case specific, but given the nature and extent of treatment involved expenses are incurred not only on the personal, but social and economic levels as well.


1. The economic cost of spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury in Australia:

2. The cost of severe SCI and TBI in Victoria 2009:

3. Cooling rebate from the Advocacy Society: