Trends in new injuries, prevalent cases, and aging with spinal cord injury

Academic Article


  • Objective To determine the characteristics of the newly injured and prevalent population with spinal cord injury (SCI) and assess trends over time. Design Prospective cohort study. Setting SCI Model Systems and Shriners Hospital SCI units. Participants The study population included people whose injuries occurred from 1935 to 2008 (N=45,442). The prevalent population was estimated based on those who were still alive in 2008. Losses to follow-up (approximately 10%) were excluded from the prevalent population. Interventions Not applicable. Main Outcome Measures Demographic and injury characteristics, mortality, self-reported health, rehospitalization, FIM, Craig Handicap Assessment and Reporting Technique, and the Diener Satisfaction with Life Scale. Results Mean age at injury increased 9 years since the 1970s. Injuries caused by falls and injuries resulting in high-level tetraplegia and ventilator dependency are increasing, while neurologically complete injuries are decreasing. Discharge to a nursing home is increasing. The mean age of the prevalent population is slightly higher than that of newly injured individuals, and the percentage of incident and prevalent cases older than 60 years is the same (13%). Prevalent cases tend to be less severely injured than incident cases, and less than 5% of prevalent cases reside in nursing homes. Within the prevalent population, life satisfaction and community participation are greater among persons who are at least 30 years postinjury. These findings are a result of very high mortality rates observed after 60 years of age. Conclusions Within the prevalent population, the percentage of elderly persons will not increase meaningfully. Those who reach older ages will typically have incomplete and/or lower-level injuries and will have relatively high degrees of independence and overall good health. © 2011 American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Devivo MJ; Chen Y
  • Start Page

  • 332
  • End Page

  • 338
  • Volume

  • 92
  • Issue

  • 3