Objectives: To describe the prevalence and character of chronic abdominal pain in a group of patients with long-term spinal cord injury (SCI) and to assess predictors of abdominal pain.
Study design: Postal survey.
Setting: Members of the Danish Paraplegic Association.
Methods: We mailed a questionnaire to 284 members of the Danish Paraplegic Association who met the inclusion criteria (member for at least 10 years). The questionnaire contained questions about cause and level of spinal injury, colorectal function and pain/discomfort.
Results: Seventy percent returned the questionnaire (133 men and 70 women). Mean age was 47 years. Thirty-four percent reported having chronic abdominal pain or discomfort. Onset of pain was later than 5 years after their SCI in 53%. Low defecation frequency was more common in patients with abdominal pain/discomfort and constipation more often affected their quality of life compared to patients without abdominal pain/discomfort. The most common descriptors were annoying, cramping/tightening, tender, sickening and shooting/jolting. There was no relation to age, time since injury or level of injury, but more women than men reported abdominal pain/discomfort. There was no relation of abdominal pain to other types of pain.
Conclusion: Chronic pain located in the abdomen is frequent in patients with long-term SCI. The delayed onset following SCI and the relation to constipation suggest that constipation plays an important role for this type of pain in the spinal cord injured.