Health, secondary conditions, and life expectancy after spinal cord injury

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2011 Nov;92(11):1770-5. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2011.05.024.


Objective: To evaluate the association of health status, secondary health conditions, hospitalizations, and risk of mortality and life expectancy (LE) after spinal cord injury (SCI).

Design: Prospective cohort study.

Setting: Preliminary data were collected from a specialty hospital in the Southeastern United States, with mortality follow-up and data analysis conducted at a medical university.

Participants: Adults with traumatic SCI (N=1361), all at least 1-year postinjury at the time of assessment, were enrolled in the study. There were 325 deaths. After elimination of those with missing data on key variables, there were 267 deaths and 12,032 person-years.

Interventions: None.

Main outcome measures: The mortality status was determined by routine follow-up using the National Death Index through December 31, 2008. A logistic regression model was developed to estimate the probability of dying in any given year using person-years.

Results: A history of chronic pressure ulcers, amputations, a depressive disorder, symptoms of infections, and being hospitalized within the past year were all predictive of mortality. LE estimates were generated using the example of a man with noncervical, nonambulatory SCI. Using 3 age examples (20, 40, 60y), the greatest estimated lost LE was associated with chronic pressure ulcers (50.3%), followed by amputations (35.4%), 1 or more recent hospitalizations (18.5%), and the diagnosis of probable major depression (18%). Symptoms of infections were associated with a 6.7% reduction in LE for a 1 SD increase in infectious symptoms.

Conclusions: Several secondary health conditions represent risk factors for mortality and diminish LE after SCI. The presence of 1 or more of these factors should be taken as an indicator of the need for intervention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Life Expectancy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / complications*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / mortality*