Age and other risk factors influencing long-term mortality in patients with traumatic spinal cord injury

Spinal cord injury (SCI) is a serious, typically irreversible health concern with a high rate of morbidity and mortality. Elderly patients are at particularly high risk of sustaining cervical spine injuries, which affects the upper neck portion of the spinal cord. As a result, people older than 65 years of age are at disproportionately high risk of poor physical outcomes, long hospital stays, and increased mortality.

A recent study in New York examined the risk factors for long-term mortality among elderly patients who experience cervical spine fractures. Researchers collected ten years of data from a level I trauma center. They analyzed data from 632 patients who sustained cervical spine fractures and conducted analyses to identify which patient factors influenced mortality rate. They found that:

  • Two-thirds of patients who experienced cervical spine fractures were older than 64 years old. Long-term survival was significantly lower for these elderly patients than for younger patients.
  • Patients with SCI experienced longer hospital stays and required more time on a ventilator than patients without SCI.
  • Most elderly patients with cervical spine fractures were injured during a fall.
  • Older patients, men, and patients with severe injury had the lowest survival rates.

Elderly populations are at increased risk for falls and SCI. Age, gender, and injury severity play significant roles in the long-term mortality outcomes after SCI, and clinicians are encouraged to consider these factors as they formulate treatment plans and intervention strategies for their patients. Additional research on cervical spine injuries in people older than 65 may be necessary as the elderly population continues to grow.

Bank M, Gibbs M, Sison C, et al. Age and other risk factors influencing long-term mortality in patients with traumatic cervical spine fracture. Geriatric Orthopedic Surgery & Rehabilitation. (March 2018).

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