Incidence and outcomes of spinal cord injury clinical syndromes

J Spinal Cord Med. 2007;30(3):215-24. doi: 10.1080/10790268.2007.11753929.


Background/objective: To examine and compare demographics and functional outcomes for individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI) clinical syndromes, including central cord (CCS), Brown-Sequard (BSS), anterior cord (ACS), posterior cord (PCS), cauda equina (CES), and conus medullaris (CMS).

Design: Retrospective review.

Setting: Tertiary care, level 1 trauma center inpatient rehabilitation unit.

Participants: Eight hundred thirty-nine consecutive admissions with acute SCIs.

Main outcomes measures: Functional independence measure (FIM), FIM subgroups (motor, self-care, sphincter control), length of stay (LOS), and discharge disposition.

Results: One hundred seventy-five patients (20.9%) were diagnosed with SCI clinical syndromes. CCS was the most common (44.0%), followed by CES (25.1%) and BSS (17.1%). Significant differences (P < or = 0.01) were found between groups with regard to age, race, etiology, total admission FIM, motor admission FIM, self-care admission and discharge FIM, and LOS. Statistical analysis between tetraplegic BSS and CCS revealed significant differences (P < or = 0.01) with respect to age (39.7 vs 53.2 years) and a trend toward significance (P < or = 0.05) with regard to self-care admission and discharge FIM. No significant differences (P < or = 0.01) were found when comparing CMS to CES.

Conclusions: SCI clinical syndromes represent a significant proportion of admissions to acute SCI rehabilitation, with CCS presenting most commonly and representing the oldest age group with the lowest admission functional level of all SCI clinical syndromes. Patients with cervical BSS seem to achieve higher functional improvement by discharge compared with patients with CCS. Patients with CMS and CES exhibit similar functional outcomes. Patients with ACS and PCS show functional gains with inpatient rehabilitation, with patients with ACS displaying the longest LOS of the SCI clinical syndromes. These findings have important implications for the overall management and outcome of patients with SCI.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Brown-Sequard Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Brown-Sequard Syndrome / rehabilitation*
  • Central Cord Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Central Cord Syndrome / rehabilitation*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity
  • Polyradiculopathy / epidemiology
  • Polyradiculopathy / rehabilitation*
  • Recovery of Function
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spinal Cord Compression / epidemiology
  • Spinal Cord Compression / rehabilitation*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / complications
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / rehabilitation
  • Treatment Outcome