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NZ spinal injury sufferers living longer

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 14/07/2016

Researchers have discovered a hidden population of more than 1000 ageing New Zealanders who have lived with spinal cord injuries for more than 25 years.

Prompted by rapidly increasing life expectancies for spinal injury sufferers, University of Otago researchers have developed a spinal cord register encompassing those who suffered their injuries before 1990.

What they discovered was, they say, an unexpectedly large population of spinal cord injury sufferers.

The study found 1400 people who suffered spinal cord injuries before 1990, with 1174 still alive and living in New Zealand.

The number of long-term injury sufferers is only expected to grow as their life expectancy and that of the population increases, study author Richard Smaill concludes.

While spinal injury sufferers once had much shorter life expectancies, that has changed.

"With appropriate care and support many can expect to live an `almost normal' lifespan," Dr Smaill said in a report published in the New Zealand medical Journal on Friday.

"Although many people with SCI (spinal cord injuries) enjoy increased longevity, it is recognised and accepted that they live and age in ways that differ from their able-bodied counterparts."

He said a single national registry of sufferers could improve planning and service delivery for those who develop age-related, complex and interwoven secondary conditions.

Between 80 and 130 people suffer a spinal cord injury across the country each year.

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