Targeting recovery: priorities of the spinal cord-injured population

J Neurotrauma. 2004 Oct;21(10):1371-83. doi: 10.1089/neu.2004.21.1371.


In the United States alone, there are more than 200,000 individuals living with a chronic spinal cord injury (SCI). Healthcare for these individuals creates a significant economic burden for the country, not to mention the physiological, psychological, and social suffering these people endure everyday. Regaining partial function can lead to greater independence, thereby improving quality of life. To ascertain what functions are most important to the SCI population, in regard to enhancing quality of life, a novel survey was performed in which subjects were asked to rank seven functions in order of importance to their quality of life. The survey was distributed via email, postal mail, the internet, interview, and word of mouth to the SCI community at large. A total of 681 responses were completed. Regaining arm and hand function was most important to quadriplegics, while regaining sexual function was the highest priority for paraplegics. Improving bladder and bowel function was of shared importance to both injury groups. A longitudinal analysis revealed only slight differences between individuals injured <3 years compared to those injured >3 years. The majority of participants indicated that exercise was important to functional recovery, yet more than half either did not have access to exercise or did not have access to a trained therapist to oversee that exercise. In order to improve the relevance of research in this area, the concerns of the SCI population must be better known and taken into account. This approach is consistent with and emphasized by the new NIH roadmap to discovery.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Recovery of Function*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / psychology*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / rehabilitation
  • Surveys and Questionnaires