The epidemiology of childhood and adolescent traumatic spinal cord injury in the United States: 2007-2010

Shalini Selvarajah, Eric B. Schneider, Daniel Becker, Cristina L. Sadowsky, Adil H. Haider, Edward R. Hammond

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


The burden of acute traumatic spinal cord injury (TSCI) among U. S. children and adolescents was last described over a decade ago using inpatient data. We describe cumulative incidence, mortality, discharge disposition, and inflation-adjusted charges of childhood and adolescent TSCI in the U.S. using emergency department (ED) data from the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample (2007-2010). Patients ages 17 years and younger with a diagnosis of acute TSCI were identified using the International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision (ICD-9) diagnosis codes 806.∗ and 952.∗ (N=6132). The cumulative incidence of childhood and adolescent TSCI averaged 17.5 per million population per year. The median age at presentation was 15 years (interquartile range [IQR]=12-16) and the majority of patients were male (72.5%). The overall median new injury severity score (NISS) was 16 (IQR=9-27), remaining unchanged during the study duration (p=0.703). Children 5 years and younger were more likely to be injured from a road traffic accident (RTA; 50.9%), sustain C1-C4 injuries (47.4%), have more severe injury (median NISS=22; IQR=13-29), and concurrent brain injury (24%) compared to older children and adolescents, p<0.001. Firearms were implicated in 8.3% of injuries, of which 94.7% were among adolescents ages 13-17 years. Of the 35 TSCI-related ED deaths, 40% occurred among children ages 5 years and younger. 62.4% of patients required inpatient admission. Despite stable cumulative incidence and overall injury severity, ED treatment charge per visit increased on average $1394 from $3495 in 2007 to $4889 in 2010 (p=0.008). RTA-related TSCI disproportionately affects young children, while firearm-related TSCI is most common among adolescents. These findings inform TSCI prevention strategies. Prevention may be key in mitigating rising healthcare cost.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1548-1560
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neurotrauma
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Nationwide Emergency Department Sample
  • adolescents
  • burden
  • children
  • epidemiology
  • traumatic spinal cord injury


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