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Quality of life and traumatic spinal cord injury

Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/s0003-9993(98)90240-4
  • Medicine
  • Psychology


Abstract Objective: To determine associations between major outcome variables after traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) and quality of life (QL). Subjects: Of a total population of 353 SCI patients, 320 participated, 261 men and 59 women living in the greater Stockholm area: 124 were tetraplegic, 176 were paraplegic, and 20 had no classified level. Mean age was 42 years (range, 17 to 78). Method: The Swedish SF-36 Health Survey was used to assess QL. The SF-36 is a self-administered questionnaire containing 36 items, divided into 8 multi-item dimensions, covering physical function, physical and emotional role function, social function, bodily pain, mental health, vitality and overall evaluation of health. Neurologic, general medical, and psychosocial variables were obtained from the Stockholm Spinal Cord Injury Study (SSCIS) data base. QL indices were analyzed for the SCI group as a whole, as well as for subgroups. Descriptors for subgroups were demographic variables, presence or absence of common medical problems, and subjective evaluation of the degree of impact of the medical problem on well-being/daily activities. Results: QL in individuals with SCI was significantly lower in all subscales as compared with a normative population. No difference in QL was seen in subgroups according to extent of lesion, with the exception of physical functioning. Several medical complications such as neurogenic pain, spasticity, and neurogenic bladder and bowel problems were associated with lower QL scores. Summary: QL, as defined by SF-36, is better in persons injured many years ago, as compared with those recently injured, suggesting an adaptive process operating over a long period. The presence of complicating medical problems, such as severe pain, problematic spasticity, and incontinence, seem to have more negative effects on QL than the extent of SCI as such.

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