Sixty-two consecutive acute spinal cord injury (SCI) patients who were aged 55 years or older were studied and compared to 296 SCI patients of age less than 55 years. Compared to younger patients, the older group had significantly more females (29%), preexisting medical conditions (87%), associated injuries (55%), incomplete quadriplegic patients (63%), and persons whose injuries resulted from falls (53%). There were no differences between groups in frequency of ventilator use, occurrence of medical complications, or acute length of stay, but older patients tended to have fewer surgical spinal fusions (40%), shorter rehabilitation stays (66.5 days), more indwelling urethral cathteters (31%), and more nursing home discharges (19%). With other factors being controlled, advancing age was predictive only of nursing home discharge, and not of acute or rehabilitation lengths of stay. Among older SCI patients, those with complete injuries were nearly 3 times as likely to have been discharged to nursing homes in our series compared to older patients with incomplete lesions. Although many aspects of the presentation, course, and care of older SCI individuals are similar to those of younger patients, there are several unique features of older adults with a SCI.