Survival after short- or long-term ventilation after acute spinal cord injury: a single-centre 25-year retrospective study

Spinal Cord. 2011 Mar;49(3):404-10. doi: 10.1038/sc.2010.131. Epub 2010 Oct 12.


Study design: A retrospective review of acute spinal cord injury patients having assisted ventilation on or after admission between 1981 and 2005.

Objective: To assess survival after acute ventilatory support.

Setting: Northwest Regional Spinal Injuries Centre, Southport, England.

Methods: Causes of death were ascertained from the Office of National Statistics. Kaplan-Meier analysis of survival was calculated according to ventilator-wean status at discharge. Risk factors were obtained by Cox regression analysis.

Results: Over 50% of deaths in weaned and ventilated patients were respiratory in origin. The mean survival of weaned patients in the age group 31-45 was 19.3 compared with 10.5 years for ventilated patients (P=0.047). Those under 30 survived a further 22.1 and 18.4 years (P=0.31), while those over 45 lived for 11.0 and 8.3 years (P=0.50), values for weaned and ventilated patients, respectively. The survival advantage for weaned patients in the middle age group was less evident when the 1-year survivors were compared. The mean survival time of younger patients with diaphragm pacing was 1.8 years longer than those on mechanical ventilation (P=0.142). The variables with significant hazard ratios were any comorbidity (3.07); mechanical ventilation on discharge (2.26); and older age at injury, (3.1).

Conclusions: The survival time for patients with high tetraplegia on long-term ventilation compares with other datasets and older patients have a proportionately greater loss in life expectancy. Self-ventilating patients with tetraplegia remain at considerable risk from respiratory death and consideration needs to be given to more effective preventative measures.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Comorbidity
  • England / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Respiration, Artificial / adverse effects*
  • Respiration, Artificial / mortality*
  • Respiratory Paralysis / mortality*
  • Respiratory Paralysis / nursing
  • Respiratory Paralysis / therapy*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / mortality*
  • Survival Rate / trends
  • Young Adult