In many countries, spinal cord injury patients are placed in non-specific rehabilitation units rather than a unit that is specialized to care for spinal cord injury (the same applies to brain injury). This practice may indicate a lack of specialized units, but it also can be due to a bias towards a less expensive facility. Additionally, patients who are admitted to a specialized unit tend to be younger and have more significant injuries, but also show a more significant improvement in functioning before admission.
However, patients admitted to non-specific rehabilitation units are more likely to remain there for longer periods of time, are less likely to recover significantly, and may actually cost more than a specialist unit over the long term.
Much of the research that supports specialist rehabilitation comes from the UK, Canada, and Australia-who share similarities in their healthcare systems. But during this time of healthcare reform in the United States, there should be some consideration given to the long-term economic benefit of specialist rehabilitation units.
New PW, Simmonds F, & Stevermuer T. Comparison of patients managed in specialised spinal rehabilitation units with those managed in non-specialised rehabilitation units. Spinal Cord. (September 2011).