Early rehabilitation after spinal cord injuries may lead to better functional outcomes

New research presented at the Association of Academic Physiatrists Annual Meeting showed that early rehabilitation following a traumatic spinal cord injury may lead to better outcomes for patients at the time of discharge and in the year after surgery.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Northwestern University examined outcomes after patients were discharged from rehabilitation and at the 1-year follow-up after a traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI). The patients were compared with those who underwent rehabilitation later in the recovery process.

Kurt Herzer, MSc, a fellow in the Medical Scientist Training Program at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and colleagues examined data for 3,937 patients who sustained a traumatic SCI between 2000 and 2014. They looked at the number of days between the injury and admission to inpatient rehabilitation and examined the Functional Independence Measure (FIM) motor score at discharge and 1 year post-injury. Researchers also examined time of discharge to a private residence and used the Craig Handicap Assessment and Reporting Technique (CHART) to assess physical independence and mobility at the 1-year follow-up, according to a press release from the Association of Academic Physiatrists (AAP).

“This study shows, following spinal cord injury, patients might benefit from entering inpatient rehabilitation at the earliest, clinically appropriate opportunity,” Herzer said in the press release. “Patients and caregivers can discuss with their medical teams the plan and timing for transfer to rehabilitation and any concerns they may have about delays. Health care providers could similarly consider the value of additional days in the hospital as it relates to their treatment plans.”

Researchers found earlier rehabilitation was associated with modest improvements in function and physical independence. The average time to rehabilitation was 19 days. A 10% greater time to rehabilitation was associated with a 4% decline in the FIM motor score and a 5.3% decrease in the CHART physical independence score at 1-year follow-up. – by Robert Linnehan

Reference: www.physiatry.org

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