Acute Spinal Cord Injury Is Associated With Prevalent Cardiometabolic Risk Factors



      To (1) describe the prevalence of cardiometabolic disease (CMD) at spinal cord injury (SCI) rehabilitation discharge; (2) compare this with controls without SCI; and (3) identify factors associated with increased CMD.


      Multicenter, prospective observational study.


      Five National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research Model SCI Rehabilitation Centers.


      SCI (n=95): patients aged 18-70 years, with SCI (neurologic levels of injury C2-L2, American Spinal Injury Association Impairment Scale grades A-D), and enrolled within 2 months of initial rehabilitation discharge. Control group (n=1609): age/sex/body mass index–matched entries in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Education Survey (2016-2019) (N=1704).



      Main Outcome Measures

      Percentage of participants with SCI with CMD diagnosis, prevalence of CMD determinants within 2 months of rehabilitation discharge, and other significant early risk associations were analyzed using age, sex, body mass index, insulin resistance (IR) by fasting glucose and Homeostasis Model Assessment (v.2), fasting triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, total cholesterol, and resting blood pressure (systolic and diastolic).


      Participants with SCI had significantly higher diastolic blood pressure and triglycerides than those without SCI, with lower fasting glucose and HDL-C. A total of 74.0% of participants with SCI vs 38.5% of those without SCI were obese when applying population-specific criteria (P<.05). Low HDL-C was measured in 54.2% of participants with SCI vs 15.4% of those without (P<.05). IR was not significantly different between groups. A total of 31.6% of participants with SCI had ≥3 CMD determinants, which was 40.7% higher than those without SCI (P<.05). Interplay of lipids and lipoproteins (ie, total cholesterol:HDL-C ratio and triglyceride:HDL-C ratio) were associated with elevated risk in participants with SCI for myocardial infarction and stroke. The only significant variable associated with CMD was age (P<.05).


      Individuals with SCI have an increased CMD risk compared with the general population; obesity, IR, and low HDL-C are the most common CMD risk determinants; age is significantly associated with early CMD.


      List of abbreviations:

      AIS (American Spinal Injury Association Impairment Scale), BMI (body mass index), CI (confidence interval), CMD (cardiometabolic disease), CVD (cardiovascular disease), HDL-C (high-density lipoprotein cholesterol), LDL-C (low-density lipoprotein cholesterol), NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey), NLI (neurologic level of injury), OR (odds ratio), PVA (Paralyzed Veterans of America), SCI (spinal cord injury)
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