Objectives: To describe the incidence and pattern of traumatic spinal cord injury and cauda equina injury (SCI) in a geographically defined region of Canada.
Methods: The study period was April 1, 1997 to March 31, 2000. Data were gathered from three provincial sources: administrative data from the Alberta Ministry of Health and Wellness, records from the Alberta Trauma Registry, and death certificates from the Office of the Medical Examiner.
Results: From all three data sources, 450 cases of SCI were identified. Of these, 71 (15.8%) died prior to hospitalization. The annual incidence rate was 52.5/million population (95% CI: 47.7, 57.4). For those who survived to hospital admission, the incidence rate was 44.3/million/year (95% CI: 39.8, 48.7). The incidence rates for males were consistently higher than for females for all age groups. Motor vehicle collisions accounted for 56.4% of injuries, followed by falls (19.1%). The highest incidence of motor vehicle-related SCI occurred to those between 15 and 29 years (60/million/year). Fall-related injuries primarily occurred to those older than 60 years (45/million/year). Rural residents were 2.5 times as likely to be injured as urban residents.
Conclusion: Prevention strategies for SCI should target males of all ages, adolescents and young adults of both sexes, rural residents, motor vehicle collisions, and fall prevention for those older than 60 years.