Abstract We reviewed 71 consecutive spinal cord injuries to determine the factors influencing neurological recovery. Sixty-three (35 tetraplegics and 28 paraplegics) were available for follow-up at a mean of 29.6 months. The American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) scoring system was used on admission and at follow-up to determine change in neurological status. Treatment with corlicosteroids or surgical intervention had no significant effect on outcome. Tetraplegics, both complete and incomplete, had a significantly better outcome than paraplegics (p < 0.02). Incomplete cord injury carried a better prognosis of motor recovery (p < 0.0001). Pattern of injury was an important determinant of recovery in the complete tetraplegia group. We conclude that many factors influence recovery following spinal cord injury and the effect of treatment may be difficult to demonstrate.