Long-Term Assessment of the Functional Independence Measure in Sports-Related Spinal Cord Injury

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Journal of Spinal Cord Medicine


Context: Patients with spinal cord injury (SCI) secondary to traumatic sports-related etiology potentially face loss of independence. The Functional Independence Measure (FIM) assesses the amount of assistance patients require and has shown sensitivity to changes in patient functional status post injury.

Objectives: We aimed to (1) examine long-term outcomes following sports-related SCI (SRSCI) using FIM scoring at the time of injury, one year, and five years post-injury, and (2) determine predictors of independence at one and five-year follow-up considering surgical and non-surgical management. Few studies have investigated the cohort analyzed in this study.

Methods: The 1973-2016 National Spinal Cord Injury Model Systems (SCIMS) Database was used to develop a SRSCI cohort. The primary outcome of interest captured functional independence using a multivariate logistic regression, defined by FIM individual scores greater than or equal to six, evaluated at one and five years.

Results: A total of 491 patients were analyzed, 60 (12%) were female, 452 (92%) underwent surgery. The cohort demographics were stratified by patients with and without spine surgery and evaluated for functional independence in FIM subcategories. Increased time spent in inpatient rehabilitation and FIM score at post-operative discharge were associated with greater likelihood of functional ability at both one and five-year follow-up.

Conclusion: Our study demonstrated that SRSCI patients are a unique subset of SCI patients for whom factors repeatedly associated with independence at one year follow-up were dissimilar to those associated with independence at five-year follow-up. Larger prospective studies should be conducted to establish guidelines for this unique subcategory of SCI patients.



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Functional independence measure, Long-term outcomes, Spinal cord injury, Spine surgery, Sports-related spinal cord injury