Spinal cord injuries in young children: a review of children injured at 5 years of age and younger

Dev Med Child Neurol. 2012 Dec;54(12):1138-43. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8749.2012.04411.x. Epub 2012 Sep 23.


Aim: To determine the epidemiology and complications of spinal cord injuries (SCIs) in children injured at 5 years of age and younger who were seen between 1981 and 2008 at a children's hospital in the USA.

Method: Complications studied were scoliosis, hip dysplasia, latex allergies, autonomic dysreflexia, pressure ulcers, spasticity, deep venous thrombosis, and kidney stones. Demographic and injury-related factors included age at injury, etiology, level of injury, American Spinal Injury Association Impairment Scale (AIS), and SCIs without radiological abnormalities (SCIWORA).

Results: Of the 159 individuals seen (92 males, 67 females) median age at injury was 2 years (range 0 y-5 y 11 mo). Forty-nine percent were injured in vehicular accidents, 60% had complete injuries, 66% had paraplegia, and 72% had SCIWORA. Ninety-six percent developed scoliosis, 57% had hip dysplasia, and 7% had latex allergy. Thirty-four percent with injuries at or above T6 experienced autonomic dysreflexia, 41% developed pressure ulcers, and 61% experienced spasticity. Of those without bowel or bladder control, 82% were on intermittent catheterization and 69% were on a bowel program. Median age of initiating wheelchair use was 3 years 4 months (range 1 y 2 mo-12 y 5 mo). Twenty-four were community ambulators, and they were more likely to have AIS D lesions (half the key muscle functions below the level of injury have a muscle grade 3 or greater) and less likely to have skeletal complications.

Interpretation: The epidemiology, complications, and manifestations of SCIs in children injured at a young age are unique and differ distinctively from adolescent and adult-onset SCIs.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / complications*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / etiology