An Italian survey of traumatic spinal cord injury. The Gruppo Italiano Studio Epidemiologico Mielolesioni Study

M. Cristina Pagliacci, M. Grazia Celani, Mauro Zampolini, Lorenzo Spizzichino, Marco Franceschini, Silvano Baratta, Giancarlo Finali, Giordano Gatta, Luigi Perdon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To describe the etiology, clinical presentation, complications, outcome indicators, and links between emergency and acute intervention and rehabilitation of patients with traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI). Design: Multicenter prospective study involving patients with SCI discharged, after rehabilitative care, between February 1, 1997, and January 31, 1999. Setting: Thirty-two Italian hospitals involved in SCI rehabilitation. Participants: Six hundred eighty-four patients with traumatic SCI on their first admission to a rehabilitation center. Interventions: Not applicable. Main Outcome Measures: Neurologic improvement (NI), bladder autonomy, feelings of dependency, and destination were evaluated on discharge. Pressure ulcers on admission, time from injury to admission, and length of stay (LOS) were considered as indirect measures of the effectiveness of the health system. Results: Traumatic etiology had a male-to-female ratio of 4:1 (548:136). Collision on the road was the main cause of traumatic injury (53.8%). Mean time from injury to admission was 36.8 days; 126 patients (18%) were admitted within the first week after injury. Mean LOS was 135.5 days. In 184 patients (26.9%), a pressure ulcer was present on admission. On discharge, NI was recorded in 179 patients (26.2%), whereas 446 (65%) and 418 (61%) had bladder and bowel autonomy, respectively, and 560 (81.9%) returned home. In the multivariate analysis, independent variables predicting poor outcome (NI, feelings of dependency, sphincter autonomy, discharge to home, LOS) were related both to the lesion (completeness, cervical involvement) and to the indicators of health service organization (time from injury to admission, complications on admission and during stay). Conclusions: Our focus on the etiology of traumatic SCI showed that efforts should be made to prevent collisions on the road. Our study also highlights problems in the comprehensive management of patients with SCI in Italy. Better organization could help reduce the time from injury to admission, the number of complications on admission, and LOS, and it could help improve rehabilitation outcome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1266-1275
Number of pages10
JournalArchives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1 2003


  • Decubitus ulcer
  • Epidemiology
  • Length of stay
  • Rehabilitation
  • Spinal cord injuries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation


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