, Volume 192, Issue 3, pp 339-346
Date: 11 Apr 2014

A Center’s Experience: Pulmonary Function in Spinal Cord Injury

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Abstract

Traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) is associated with significant psychological and physical challenges. A multidisciplinary approach to management is essential to ensure recovery during the acute phase, and comprehensive rehabilitative strategies are necessary to foster independence and quality of life throughout the chronic phase of injury. Complications that beset these individuals are often a unique consequence of SCI, and knowledge of the effects of SCI upon organ systems is essential for appropriate management. According to the National SCI Statistical Center (NSCISC), as of 2010 there were an estimated 265,000 persons living with SCI in the United States, with approximately 12,000 incidence cases annually. Although life expectancy for newly injured individuals with SCI is markedly reduced, persons with chronic SCI are expected to live about as long as individuals without SCI; however, longevity varies inversely with level of injury. Since 2005, 56 % of persons with SCI are tetraplegic, and due to paralysis of respiratory muscles, these individuals may be especially prone to pulmonary complications, which remain a major cause of mortality among persons with chronic SCI. We at the VA Rehabilitation Research and Development Center of Excellence for the Medical Consequences of SCI at the James J. Peters VA Medical Center have devoted more than 25 years to the study of secondary medical conditions that complicate SCI. Herein, we review pulmonary research at the Center, both our past and future endeavors, which form an integral part of our multidisciplinary approach toward achieving a greater understanding of and improving care for veterans with SCI.