Emergency Department Visits, Related Hospitalizations, and Reasons for Emergency Department Utilization After Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury



      To identify the self-reported frequency of emergency department (ED) visits, ED-related hospitalizations, and reasons for ED visits among people with traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) and compare them with general population data from the same geographic area.




      A specialty hospital in the Southeastern United States.


      The participants (N=648) were community-dwelling adults (18 years and older) with a traumatic SCI, who were at least 1 year postinjury. A comparison group of 9728 individuals from the general population was retrieved from the 2017 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS).


      Not applicable.

      Main Outcome Measures

      Participants completed self-report assessments on ED visits, ED hospitalizations, and reasons for ED visits in the past 12 months using items from the NHIS.


      A total of 37% of participants with SCI reported at least 1 ED visit, and 18% reported at least 1 ED hospitalization in the past 12 months. Among those having at least 1 ED visit, 49% were admitted to hospitals. After controlling for sex, age, and race/ethnicity, participants with SCI were 151% more likely to visit the ED (odds ratio [OR], 2.51) and 249% more likely to have at least 1 ED hospitalization than the NHIS sample (OR, 3.49). Persons with SCI had a higher percentage of ED visits because of severe health conditions, reported an ED was the closest provider, and were more likely to arrive by ambulance. NHIS participants were more likely to visit the ED because no other option was available.


      Compared with those in the general population, individuals with SCI have substantially higher rates of ED visits, yet ED visits are not regularly assessed within the SCI Model Systems. ED visits may indicate the need for intervention beyond the acute condition leading directly to the ED visits and an opportunity to link individuals with resources needed to maintain function in the community.


      List of abbreviations:

      AIS (American Spinal Injury Association Impairment Scale), ED (emergency department), NHIS (National Health Interview Survey), OR (odds ratio), SCI (spinal cord injury), SCIMS (Spinal Cord Injury Model Systems), US (United States)
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