Study design: Cohort study with 6-years follow-up.
Objective: To describe the utilization of health services by persons with spinal cord injury (SCI) and compare it with that of the general population.
Setting: Alberta, Canada.
Methods: All persons who sustained an SCI in Alberta between April 1992 and March 1994 were followed from date of injury to 6 years postinjury. Cases were matched (1:5) with controls randomly selected from the general population and matched for age, gender, and region of residence. Administrative data from centralized health care databases were compiled to provide a complete picture of health care use, including hospitalizations, physician contacts, long-term care admissions, home care services, and the occurrence of secondary complications.
Results: In all, 233 individuals with SCI and 1165 matched controls were followed for 6 years. Compared with the control group, persons with SCI were rehospitalized 2.6 times more often, spent 3.3 more days in hospital, were 2.7 times more likely to have a physician contact, and required 30 times more hours of home care services. Of those with SCI, 47.6% were treated for a urinary tract infection, 33.8% for pneumonia, 27.5% for depression, and 19.7% for decubitus ulcer.
Conclusion: SCI places a heavy burden on the health care system. Persons with SCI have greater rates of contact with the health system compared with the general population. Secondary complications continue to affect persons with SCI long after the acute trauma.