Demographics, Mechanism of Injury, and Outcomes for Acute Upper and Lower Cervical Spinal Cord Injuries: An Analysis of 470 Patients in the Prospective, Multi-Center, North American Clinical Trials Network Registry

Brittany Grace Futch, Romaric Waguia Kouam, Beatrice Ugiliweneza, James Harrop, Shekar Kurpad, Norah Foster, Khoi Than, Clifford Crutcher, C. Rory Goodwin, Charles Tator, Christopher I. Shaffrey, Bizhan Aarabi, Michael Fehlings, Chris J. Neal, James Guest, Muhammad M. Abd-El-Barr*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

There is a paucity of data comparing the demographics, mechanism of injury, and outcomes of upper versus lower cervical spinal cord injuries (cSCI). The study objective was to define different clinical manifestations of cSCI. Data were collected prospectively through centers of the North American Clinical Trials Network (NACTN). Data was collected on 470 patients (21% women, mean age 50 years). Cervical vertebral level was analyzed as an ordinal variable to determine a natural demarcation to classify upper versus lower cSCI. For continuous variable analysis, falls were associated with C3 more than C4 vertebral level injuries (60% vs. 42%; p = 0.0126), while motor vehicle accidents were associated with C4 more than C3 (40% vs. 29%; p = 0.0962). Motor International Standards for Neurological Classification of Spinal Cord Injury scores also demonstrated a natural demarcation between C3 and C4, with C3 having higher median American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) motor scores (40 [4-73] vs. 11 [3-59], p = 0.0227). There were no differences when comparing C2 to C3 nor C4 to C5. Given the significant differences seen between C3 and C4, but not C2 and C3 nor C4 and C5, upper cSCI was designated as C1-C3, and lower cSCI was designated as C4-C7. Compared with a lower cSCI, patients with an upper cSCI were more likely to have a fall as their mechanism of injury (54% vs. 36%; p = 0.0072). Patients with an ASIA C cSCI were likely to have an upper cervical injury: 23% vs. 11% (p = 0.0226). Additionally, patients with an upper cSCI were more likely to have diabetes prior to injury: 37% versus 22%, respectively (p = 0.0084). Lower cSCI were more likely injured through sports (19% vs. 8%, p = 0.0171) and present with ASIA A (42% vs. 25%, p = 0.0186) neurological grade. Patients with lower cSCI were also significantly more likely to have complications such as shock, pulmonary embolism, and pleural effusion. In conclusion, there appears to be a natural demarcation of injury type between C3 and C4. Upper cSCI (C1-C3) was more associated with falls and diabetes, whereas lower cSCI (C4-C7) was more associated with sports, worse ASIA scores, and more complications. Further research will be needed to understand the mechanistic and biological differences between these two groups and whether different treatments may be appropriate for each of these groups.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1918-1927
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neurotrauma
Volume40
Issue number17-18
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2023
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • ASIA
  • cervical spine
  • level
  • prognosis
  • spinal cord injury

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