Objective: Traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) affects 8,000 to 10,000 individuals per year in the United States. One of the most difficult tasks confronting the clinician is the discussion of neurologic recovery and prognosis with the patient and/or family. Our objective is to provide a guide for practitioners to accurately predict neurologic outcome in acute traumatic cervical SCI (tetraplegia).
Data source: Published reports obtained through MEDLINE search, texts, and studies presented at national conferences.
Study selection: Peer reviewed studies, in English language, that discussed prognosis after traumatic SCI.
Conclusion: A comprehensive physical examination of the acute SCI patient is essential in determining the initial level and classification of the injury and is the most accurate method to predict neurologic recovery. Other diagnostic tests, including somatosensory evoked potentials, magnetic resonance imaging, and transcranial magnetic stimulation, may be helpful in further determining outcome when used in association with the clinical examination. The understanding of neurologic recovery should help predict ultimate functional capability and potential needs.