An exploratory study of pressure ulcers after spinal cord injury: relationship to protective behaviors and risk factors

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2001 Jan;82(1):107-13. doi: 10.1053/apmr.2001.18050.


Objectives: To identify protective behaviors and risk factors associated with the development of pressure ulcers (PUs) after spinal cord injury (SCI).

Design: A cross-sectional study to evaluate the relationship between protective behaviors and risk factors and 3 PU outcomes: a current PU, PUs within the past year, and ever hospitalized for a PU. Logistic regression was then used to identify the variables most strongly associated with PU outcomes.

Setting: Data were collected by case managers employed by the Arkansas Spinal Cord Commission, an agency that provides services to persons with SCI.

Participants: A total of 650 of 991 eligible individuals with SCI from a statewide population-based SCI registry participated. All ambulatory participants were eliminated, leaving 560 patients. Average age of the respondents was 27.2 years at injury (median age, 25yr) and 43.6 years at the time of the survey (median age, 42yr).

Main outcome measures: A 200-item interview was developed to measure a broad range of outcomes associated with SCI (including secondary conditions such as PUs), as well as risk and protective behaviors related to these outcomes.

Results: Several characteristics and behaviors were related to PU outcomes. Being underweight (odds ratio [OR] = 2.18), having used medications to treat pain (OR = 1.33) or spasticity (OR = 1.31), having smoked at least 100 cigarettes over a lifetime (OR = 1.31), and being a current smoker (OR = 1.21) were associated with having a PU in the past year. Having completed a college degree (OR = 0.23), being married (OR = 0.49), and being currently employed (OR = 0.54) were associated with a lower risk of having a PU in the past year. Being underweight (OR = 1.94), having a history of incarceration (OR = 1.78), having attempted suicide (OR = 1.71), and reporting alcohol or drug treatment (OR = 1.65) were associated with having been hospitalized for a PU since injury. This study was unable to evaluate the efficacy of traditional health maintenance or protective behaviors for PUs, such as weight shifts or skin checks.

Conclusions: PUs are least likely to occur among individuals who maintain normal weight, return to a work and family role, and who do not have a history of tobacco use, suicidal behaviors, or self-reported incarcerations, or alcohol or drug abuse. Additional research is needed to identify better the risk factors for the occurrence of PUs.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Arkansas / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pressure Ulcer / epidemiology
  • Pressure Ulcer / etiology*
  • Pressure Ulcer / prevention & control
  • Risk Factors
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / complications*