The burden of acute traumatic spinal cord injury among adults in the United States: An update

Shalini Selvarajah, Edward R. Hammond, Adil H. Haider, Christopher J. Abularrage, Daniel Becker, Nitasha Dhiman, Omar Hyder, Deepak Gupta, James H. Black, Eric B. Schneider

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

107 Citations (Scopus)


The current incidence estimate of 40 traumatic spinal cord injuries (TSCI) per million population/year in the United States (U.S.) is based on data from the 1990s. We sought to update the incidence and epidemiology of TSCI in U.S adults by using the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample (NEDS), the largest all-payer emergency department (ED) database in the United States. Adult ED visits between 2007 and 2009 with a principal diagnosis of TSCI were identified using International Classification of Diseases (ICD)-9 codes (806.0-806.9 and 952.0-952.9). We describe TSCI cumulative incidence, mortality, discharge disposition, and hospital charges weighted to the U.S. population. The estimated 3-year cumulative incidence of TSCI was 56.4 per million adults. Cumulative incidence of TSCI in older adults increased from 79.4 per million older adults in 2007 to 87.7 by the end of 2009, but remained steady among younger adults. Overall, falls were the leading cause of TSCI (41.5%). ED charges rose by 20% over the study period, and death occurred in 5.7% of patients. Compared with younger adults, older adults demonstrated higher adjusted odds of mortality in the ED (adjusted odds ratio [AOR]=4.4; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.1-16.6), mortality during hospitalization (AOR=5.9; 95% CI: 4.7-7.4), and being discharged to chronic care (AOR=3.7; 95% CI: 3.0-4.5). The incidence of TSCI is higher than previously reported with a progressive increase among older adults who also experience worse outcomes compared with younger adults. ED-related TSCI charges are also increasing. These updated national estimates support the development of customized prevention strategies based on age-specific risk factors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)228-238
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neurotrauma
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • epidemiology
  • traumatic spinal cord injury


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