Influence of severity and level of injury on the occurrence of complications during the subacute and chronic stage of traumatic spinal cord injury: a systematic review

Charlotte Y. Adegeest*, Jort A. N. van Gent, Janneke M. Stolwijk-Swüste, Marcel W. M. Post, William P. Vandertop, F. Cumhur Öner, Wilco C. Peul, Paula V. ter Wengel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


Objective: Secondary health conditions (SHCs) are long-term complications that frequently occur due to traumatic spinal cord injury (tSCI) and can negatively affect quality of life in this patient population. This study provides an overview of the associations between the severity and level of injury and the occurrence of SHCs in tSCI. Methods: A systematic search was conducted in PubMed and Embase that retrieved 44 studies on the influence of severity and/or level of injury on the occurrence of SHCs in the subacute and chronic phase of tSCI (from 3 months after trauma). The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines were followed. Results: In the majority of studies, patients with motor-complete tSCI (American Spinal Injury Association [ASIA] Impairment Scale [AIS] grade A or B) had a significantly increased occurrence of SHCs in comparison to patients with motor-incomplete tSCI (AIS grade C or D), such as respiratory and urogenital complications, musculoskeletal disorders, pressure ulcers, and autonomic dysreflexia. In contrast, an increased prevalence of pain was seen in patients with motor-incomplete injuries. In addition, higher rates of pulmonary infections, spasticity, and autonomic dysreflexia were observed in patients with tetraplegia. Patients with paraplegia more commonly suffered from hypertension, venous thromboembolism, and pain. Conclusions: This review suggests that patients with a motor-complete tSCI have an increased risk of developing SHCs during the subacute and chronic stage of tSCI in comparison with patients with motor-incomplete tSCI. Future studies should examine whether systematic monitoring during rehabilitation and the subacute and chronic phase in patients with motor-complete tSCI could lead to early detection and potential prevention of SHCs in this population.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)632-652
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Neurosurgery. Spine
Issue number4
Early online date12 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2022

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