A global perspective on spinal cord injury epidemiology

J Neurotrauma. 2004 Oct;21(10):1355-70. doi: 10.1089/neu.2004.21.1355.


Spinal cord injury (SCI) is a devastating condition often affecting young and healthy individuals around the world. This debilitating condition not only creates enormous physical and emotional cost to individuals but also is a significant financial burden to society at large. This review was undertaken to understand the global impact of SCI on society. We also attempted to summarize the worldwide demographics and preventative strategies for SCI in varying economic and climatic environments and to evaluate how cultural and economic differences affect the etiology of SCI. A PUBMED database search was performed in order to identify clinical epidemiological studies of SCI within the last decade. In addition, World Bank and World Health Organization websites were used to obtain demographics, economics, and health statistics of countries of interest. A total of 20 manuscripts were selected from 17 countries. We found that SCI varies in etiology, male-to-female ratios, age distributions, and complications in different countries. Nations with similar economies tend to have similar features and incidences in all the above categories. However, diverse methods of classifying SCI were found, making comparisons difficult. Based upon these findings, it is clear that the categorization and evaluation of SCI must be standardized. The authors suggest improved methods of reporting in the areas of etiology, neurological classification, and incidence of SCI so that, in the future, more useful global comprehensive studies and comparisons can be undertaken. Unified injury prevention programs should be implemented through methods involving the Internet and international organizations, targeting the different etiologies of SCI found in different countries.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sex Factors
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / etiology*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / prevention & control*