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Transport and falls cause most bad spinal cord injuries

11 December, 2007

Transport-related injuries and falls accounted for over three-quarters of all cases of traumatic spinal cord injury in Australia in 2005-06, according to a new report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Spinal Cord Injury, Australia 2005-06, presents national statistics on 374 cases of persisting spinal cord injury (SCI), 284 of which were due to traumatic causes and 90 of which were due to disease.

Dr Raymond Cripps of the AIHW's National Injury Surveillance Unit said that although spinal cord injury is uncommon, the personal and health system costs are high.

'An indication of this is that the median duration of initial care following spinal cord injury in 2005-06 was almost 7 months,' Dr Cripps said. The report shows that 106 of the SCI cases were caused by traffic accidents - 63 of these were vehicle occupants and 43 were unprotected road users, predominantly motorcyclists.

'All 26 motorcyclist cases in 2005-06 were in the 15-44 age bracket,' Dr Cripps said.

Falls led to 95 cases of persisting spinal cord injury. About two-thirds of these were falls from a height of 1 metre or higher, and largely involved males aged 15-64 years who were doing either paid or unpaid work.

Level falls or falls from less than 1 metre led to spinal cord injury in 35 cases and close to half of these involved people aged 65 years and over.

Water-related accidents accounted for just 9% of cases, but the majority (80%) of these were severe, and most involved people under the age of 35.

Overall, male rates of persisting SCI from traumatic causes were higher than female rates at all ages except among people aged 65 years and over.

Western Australian rates were significantly higher than the national incident rate and Victorian rates significantly lower.

Spinal Cord Injury, Australia 2005-06 is the 11th statistical report based on case registration data holdings of the Australian Spinal Cord Injury Register established and operated by the AIHW National Injury Surveillance Unit in collaboration with State spinal units.

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