Trillium Sports Medicine

Studies show that rehabilitation treatments for patients with complete thoracic spinal cord injuries may in fact be very effective.

“Rehabilitation Outcomes in Patients with Complete Thoracic Spinal Cord Injury” by Gary Yarkony MD, Elliot Roth MD, Paul Meyer MD, Linda Lovell and Allen Heinemann Ph.D., was a study done on 184 patients who suffered complete thoracic traumatic spinal cord injuries. It shows that these patients made significant improvements because of rehabilitation, contradicting previous studies.

The sample of 184 patients with complete
thoracic paraplegia was 81% male and 57%
white. The mean age was 27.2 yr (SD=11.4).
Etiologies of injuries were penetrating wounds
in 38%, road and traffic accidents in 33%,
falls in 17%, sports injuries and other causes
in 10%. Surgical spinal stabilization was
performed on 36% of the sample. The average
length of acute care stay was 46 days and
average length of rehabilitation was 84 days.
(Yarkony, 1992)

This study spanned over an eight-year period, from 1973 to 1980. The 184-person sample, was put into a freestanding, comprehensive rehabilitation facility, after initial hospitalization. Some of the samples received surgical spine stabilization. The therapy the sample received from the experienced rehabilitation team included, “physical therapy, speech therapy, psychology, occupational therapy, social work, vocational rehabilitation, and therapeutic recreation.”
The desire to walk motivated patients to pass wheel chair skills to have a chance for gait training with the help of braces and crutches. While some were successful in their attempts to ambulate, others used standing for exercise purposes only. The benefits of standing are well known; from the pressure release, prevention of osteoporosis, to the reduction of pressure sores.

One interesting fact discovered is that there was not a substantial difference between patients who were surgically stabilized and those who were not.

This study’s only flaw is that it did not have a control group, which in this case would have been a group that did not receive any rehabilitation whatsoever.

This one flaw is partially compensated by comparing scores from patients who did not receive rehabilitation from previous studies. The study also emphasizes the importance that a “… rehabilitation program should include educational programs for patients, their families, and friends… .”

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