An accurate estimate of life expectancy is an essential component of any estimation of anticipated lifetime costs of care after spinal cord injury. Estimates of life expectancy based on age at injury, neurologic level of lesion, completeness of injury, ventilator dependency, and the amount of time since injury have been published by the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC) and are updated annually on its web site. More precise estimates that include consideration of other factors such as gender, race, and the presence of preexisting major medical conditions can also be obtained from the NSCISC. This article describes the common analytical approaches used in estimating life expectancy, the strengths and limitations of these approaches, and the dangers of attempting to extrapolate from these results without a sound scientific basis.

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