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.