Incidence of spinal cord injury worldwide: a systematic review

Neuroepidemiology. 2010;34(3):184-92; discussion 192. doi: 10.1159/000279335. Epub 2010 Feb 2.


Background: Incidence studies of spinal cord injury (SCI) are important for health-care planning and epidemiological research. This review gives a quantitative update on SCI epidemiology worldwide through a statistical evaluation of incidence rates.

Methods: A systematic review was conducted. For each study, the crude rate ratio was calculated and, when possible, age- and gender-adjusted incidence rate ratios with 95% CI were determined by direct adjustment or using Poisson regression.

Results: Thirteen studies were included. Annual crude incidence rates in traumatic SCI varied from 12.1 per million in The Netherlands to 57.8 per million in Portugal. Compared to the Portuguese reference study, incidence rates showed a 3-fold variation, with the highest rates in Canada and Portugal. Most traumatic SCI studies showed a bimodal age distribution. The first peak was found in young adults between 15 and 29 years and a second peak in older adults (mostly > or = 65 years). Motor vehicle accidents and falls were the most prevalent causes of injury accounting for nearly equal percentages. In contrast, another age pattern in non-traumatic SCI reflected steadily increasing incidence with advancing age.

Conclusions: The results show significant variation in SCI incidence with changing epidemiological patterns. A trend towards increased incidence in the elderly was observed, likely due to falls and non-traumatic injury.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / prevention & control
  • Accidents, Traffic / prevention & control
  • Age Factors
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / methods
  • Global Health*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Risk Factors
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / etiology