Neurologic recovery after traumatic spinal cord injury: data from the Model Spinal Cord Injury Systems

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 1999 Nov;80(11):1391-6. doi: 10.1016/s0003-9993(99)90249-6.


Objective: To present data on neurologic recovery gathered by the Model Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Systems over a 10-year period.

Design: Case series.

Setting: Twenty-one Model SCI Systems.

Patients: A total of 3,585 individuals with traumatic SCI admitted between January 1, 1988 and December 31, 1997.

Main outcome measures: Neurologic impairment category; Frankel grade; American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) Impairment Scale (AIS) grade; motor score.

Results: SCI caused by violence is more likely than SCI from nonviolent etiologies to result in a complete injury. Changes in severity of injury were similar using the older Frankel scale and the newer ASIA Impairment Scale. Individuals who were motor-complete with extended zones of sensory preservation but without sacral sparing were less likely to convert to motor-incomplete status than those with sacral sparing (13.3% vs 53.6%; p < .001). Motor score improvements at 1 year were related to severity of injury, with greater increases for better AIS grades except grade D, because of ceiling effects. Individuals with AIS grade B injuries have a mixed prognosis.

Conclusion: Neurologic recovery after SCI is influenced by etiology and severity of injury. Multicenter studies on prognostic features such as preserved pin sensation in grade B injuries may identify subgroups with similar recovery patterns. Identification of such groups would facilitate clinical trials for neurologic recovery in acute SCI.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Databases, Factual / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Male
  • Motor Skills
  • Recovery of Function*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / classification
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / etiology
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / physiopathology*