Health care costs for patients with chronic spinal cord injury in the veterans health administration

Dustin D. French*, Robert R. Campbell, Sunil Sabharwal, Audrey L. Nelson, Polly A. Palacios, Deborah Gavin-Dreschnack

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

113 Scopus citations


Background/Objective: Recurring annual costs of caring for patients with chronic spinal cord injury (SCI) is a large economic burden on health care systems, but information on costs of SCI care beyond the acute and initial postacute phase is sparse. The objective of this study was to establish a frame of reference and estimate of the annual direct medical costs associated with health care for a sample of patients with chronic SCI (ie, >2 years after injury). Methods: Patients were recruited from 3 Veterans Health Administration (VHA) SCI facilities; baseline patient information was cross-referenced to the Decision Support System (DSS) National Data Extracts (NDE) to obtain patient-specific health care costs in VHA. Descriptive statistical analysis of annual DSS-NDE cost of patients with SCI (N = 675) for fiscal year (FY) 2005 by level and completeness of injury was conducted. Results: Total (inpatient and outpatient) annual (FY 2005) direct medical costs for 675 patients with SCI exceeded $14.47 million or $21,450 per patient. Average annual total costs varied from $28,334 for cervical complete SCI to $16,792 for thoracic incomplete SCI. Two hundred thirty-three of the 675 patients with SCI who were hospitalized over the study period accounted for a total of 378 hospital discharges, costing in excess of $7.19 million. This approximated a cost of outpatient care received of $7.28 million for our entire sample. Conclusions: The comprehensive nature of health care delivery and related cost capture for people with chronic SCI in the VHA provided us the opportunity to accurately determine health care costs for this population. Future SCI postacute care cost analyses should consider case-mix adjusting patients at high risk for rehospitalization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)477-481
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Spinal Cord Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jan 1 2007


  • Health care costs
  • Health economics
  • Paraplegia
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Tetraplegia
  • Veterans Administration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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