How much does it cost to treat a spinal cord injury?
For years, patients with severe spinal cord injuries were given little hope of ever walking again. Spinal cord injuries were thought by most to be largely irreversible. Now, however, new and innovative treatments are proving that spinal cord injury sufferers can regain sensation and the ability to walk in some cases. One such new treatment has just been implemented at the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Unit (ZSFG). Spinal cord injury patients at this hospital will be treated in accordance with a ground breaking protocol that requires rapid and effective assessment, individualized blood pressure treatment, and early surgery. The protocol could soon be adopted nationwide and may assist thousands of slip and fall and car accident victims in regaining mobility.
The Dhall Protocol
Dr. Dhall, a UC San Francisco associate professor of Neurological Surgery and the director of the Spinal Neurotrauma unit at ZSFG developed an innovative protocol for spinal cord injury sufferers. Per the protocol, spinal injury patients must first receive a rapid assessment to determine the extent of their injuries. Rather than focusing on the ability to move, which is not an accurate indicator right after an accident, doctors will assess the patient’s blood pressure in the spine.
From there, physicians will raise a patients’ spinal blood pressure to their unique resting level. Traditionally, all patients’ blood pressure was raised to the same level, but studies show that each patient has a different interspinal pressure and it is safer to only raise the pressure to that unique level. The first parts of the protocol have been deemed “Code SCI.”
With assessments made, the next step is to get the patient into surgery as quickly as possible. Whereas traditionally getting the patient into surgery two days after the accident was considered quick, Dhall attempts to get patients into surgery within 12 hours of the injury. So far, the Dhall protocol has been applied to ten patients, with compelling results. One patient who fractured two neck vertebrae had regained all motor control within four months of the accident.
The Costs of a Spinal Cord Injury
Motor vehicle accidents and slip and falls are the leading causes of spinal cord injuries. Suffering a spinal cord injury can devastate a patient and his or her family both emotionally and financially. The treatment of a spinal cord injury can amount to astronomical expenses, ranging from over one million for just the first year of treatment for those with high tetraplegia to $350,000 for the first year of treatment of an incomplete spinal cord injury. These expenses continue to mount each year, climbing well into the millions over the lifetime of the patient. This makes it critical for accident victims who have suffered a spinal cord injury in a car accident or slip and fall to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible for assistance covering the tremendous costs associated with recovery.