Work-related tetraplegia: cause of injury and annual medical costs
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STUDY DESIGN: Descriptive study. OBJECTIVE: To describe the demographics, cause of injury, and annual-paid medical costs for the 5 years following injury for cases of work-related tetraplegia. SETTING: A single United States workers' compensation (WC) claims database. METHODS: Tetraplegia cases with initial date of injury from 1 January 1989 to 31 December 1999 were selected by cross-referencing word search terms pertaining to body part injured and nature of injury. The main outcome measures were injury causes and annual-paid medical payments (adjusted to year 2000 medical consumer price index) of work-related tetraplegia by injury group for each year postinjury over a 5-year time period. RESULTS: A total of 62 claimants with work-related tetraplegia injured between 1 January 1989 and 31 December 1999. The vast majority of those identified were male claimants (92%) and more than a quarter worked in the construction industry (26%). Other highly represented industries included transportation and retail (15% each), manufacturing (13%), and agriculture and utility (11% each). The majority of injuries were the result of falls (36%) and vehicular accidents (34%). The mean Year 1 cost was US dollars 560524 for those with a high-level tetraplegia (C2-4 ASIA A-C), US dollars 431033 for a low-level injury (C5-8 ASIA A-C), and US dollars 178041 for those with an ASIA D tetraplegia injury. The mean cost of subsequent years (Years 2-5) was US dollars 130992 for a high-level, US dollars 129250 for a low-level, and Us dollars 34352 for an ASIA D tetraplegia injury. CONCLUSIONS: Mean costs for Year 1 postinjury in WC cases are similar to previously published estimates. Comparing the current results with those of previous spinal cord injury cost studies suggests that those with work-related tetraplegia may receive more injury-related paid medical benefits after the first year postinjury than cases who do not receive WC-supported benefits. SPONSORSHIP: Supported, in part, by a grant from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDDR) (Grant # H133N00024).
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