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Research study looks at aging in spinal cord injury population

January 16, 2014

The Craig Hospital Research Department conducts a wide variety of applied Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) and Traumatic Brain Injury rehabilitation research, often collaborating with other institutions by leading and participating in multi-center research. One such ongoing project, the U.K. SCI Aging Study, is partially funded through donations to the Craig Hospital Foundation.

The study aims to understand the changes spinal cord injury survivors undergo throughout their lives. These changes often manifest themselves in ways which may adversely affect an individual’s function, both physically and in terms of community integration. According to study Principal Investigator Susan Charlifue, Ph.D., these secondary complications or secondary disabilities may be the result of chronic or newly-acquired medical problems, declining health status, changes in the support systems, or cumulative stresses caused by both the disability itself and the society in which the individual with a disability has had to live.

Working with the National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, and the Northwest Regional Spinal Injuries Centre in Southport, Merseyside, Craig has followed 282 individuals who, as of 1990, were all at least 20 years post-injury. Study participants participated in full physical examinations and detailed interviews regarding their medical history, health and functional status, as well as a series of psychosocial questionnaires. Subsequent data collection with this group of individuals occurred in 1993, 1996, 1999, 2002 and 2006 and 2010.

The results of this study have been presented around the world, and it is considered to be landmark achievement in bettering the understanding of the natural course of aging with SCI. Also, as a result of the early analyses of study data, a series of consumer-oriented brochures were developed at Craig Hospital. Additional longitudinal analyses of these data are on-going, and Charlifue anticipates several publications and presentations will develop from this continued work.