Early Rehabilitation after Spinal Cord Injury Leads To Better Functional Outcomes

Early Rehabilitation after Spinal Cord Injury

This year’s Association of Academic Physiatrists Annual Meeting shed light on new and extensive research, which has revealed that "following spinal cord injury, patients might benefit from entering inpatient rehabilitation at the earliest, clinically appropriate opportunity,"

As it stands, in the UK, there are 40,000 people living with a spinal cord injury and there are on average 12,000 new spinal cord injury cases each year. Although these figures currently remain relatively static year on year, the average length of stay in rehabilitation and acute-care centres following these injuries has dramatically reduced.

It was this last statistic that inspired Kurt Herzer, lead investigator at the John Hopkins School of Medicine, and his research team, to investigate different outcomes of spinal cord injury patients, following their discharge from rehabilitation centres. This would be contrasted with functional abilities one year after their injury. The aim was to allow physiatrists, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation physicians, to establish whether there was indeed a positive correlation between those outcomes and earlier rehabilitation.

Herzer’s research consisted of examining the results from 3,937 spinal cord injury patients between 200 and 2014. He and his team analysed the number of days between sustaining injury and admission to rehabilitation. From this, they examined the Functional independence Measure (FIM) motor score at exit from rehabilitation and one year exactly from sustaining injury. Additionally, experts looked at the time it took to discharge spinal cord injury patients back to a private residence and utilised the Craig Handicap Assessment and Reporting Technique (CHART) in order to gauge the physical independence and functional ability at an annual follow-up.

Earlier Rehabilitation Can Lead To Improvements In Independence

What Herzer and his team discovered was that for spinal cord injury patients earlier rehabilitation can indeed lead to improvements in functioning and physical independence. The research team’s results eluded that:

“the average time to rehabilitation was 19 days during the time period studied. When they accounted for patients' health statuses, they found a 10 percent greater time to rehabilitation was associated with a relative decline of four percent in the FIM motor score and 5.3 percent in the CHART physical independence score, at one-year post injury.” - Science Daily

This is certainly good news for individuals who suffer from spinal cord injuries: As it stands there is no cure. Although research is currently being undertaken into the curative potential of Nutlins - a drug that could someday lead to the regeneration of a broken spinal cord - but until that day, regrettably, there is no finite solution. In light of this, it truly is promising to hear that earlier rehabilitation can positively affect functional outcomes when compared to rehabilitation later in the recovery process.

The lack of spinal cord injury cure highlights the requisite necessary to take responsibility for yourself and those around you when out, especially on the roads and in vehicles, as road traffic accidents are the most common cause of spinal cord injury, with 324 people sustaining a spinal cord injury daily on our roads. However, if you have been injured in an accident which has caused you to sustain a spinal cord injury, then you should contact a specialist solicitor, as soon as possible. 

Aspire Law can help you

Even if you feel that you were in some way partly to blame for the accident, you should still speak to a specialist spinal cord injury law firm such as Aspire Law. We have successfully settled many claims where our client was partly to blame for the accident that led to their injury.

Different injuries require different levels of care, rehabilitation and support. Our team understands how varied and complex the individual requirements of our clients and their family can be and this is why we work in partnership with the National Spinal Cord Injury charity, Aspire. This partnership has allowed us to develop a service that recognises all of the difficulties caused by Spinal Cord Injury and the adjustments required in order to regain a level of independence, as well as fully understanding the legalities involved. If you have recently sustained a spinal cord injury please do get in touch, we really could transform your life.