Rehabilitation outcomes after infection-related spinal cord disease: a retrospective analysis.
Objective: To compare injury characteristics, demographics, and functional outcomes of patients with infection-related spinal cord disease (IR-SCD) vs. those with traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI).
Methods: A 10-yr retrospective review of 34 consecutive patients with IR-SCD admitted to an SCI rehabilitation unit at a Level 1 tertiary university medical center. Outcome measures included length of stay (LOS), FIM motor scores, and home discharge rates.
Results: The cause of IR-SCD was most often spinal epidural abscess secondary to Staphylococcus aureus (74%). Weakness (90%) and neck/back pain (84%) were the most frequent initial admitting symptoms. Identifiable risk factors included history of recent infection (42%), diabetes mellitus (32%), and intravenous drug abuse (26%). SCD-related complications most commonly included pain (81%), urinary tract infection (52%), and spasticity (45%). When compared with traumatic SCI (n = 560), patients with IR-SCD comprised significantly less of the SCI/D rehabilitation admissions (3% vs. 61%), were older (53 vs. 40 yrs), and more often female (35% vs. 16%). Injuries were more commonly located in the thoracic region (48% vs. 38%). Patients with IR-SCD more often had incomplete injuries (94% vs. 57%). Thirty-two percent of IR-SCD patients had improvements in AIS impairment scale classification. LOS was longer on acute care (25 vs. 16 days), but similar on rehabilitation (36 vs. 34 days), and with lower FIM motor changes (16.2 vs. 22.8) during rehabilitation. Patients with IR-SCD were less often discharged to home (56% vs. 75%).
Conclusions: Patients with infection-related SCD comprise a significant subset of SCI/D rehabilitation admissions and have differing demographic and injury characteristics compared with traumatic SCI. Despite less-severe injury characteristics and similar rehabilitation LOS, they achieve lower functional improvements and are less often discharged home, underscoring the importance of patient/family education and discharge planning.