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Traumatic and non-traumatic spinal cord impairment in New Zealand: incidence and characteristics of people admitted to spinal units
  1. Sarah Derrett1,
  2. Carolyn Beaver2,
  3. Martin J Sullivan3,
  4. G Peter Herbison1,
  5. Rick Acland4,
  6. Charlotte Paul1
  1. 1Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, Dunedin School of Medicine, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
  2. 2Burwood Academy of Independent Living (BAIL), Christchurch, New Zealand
  3. 3School of Health and Social Services, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
  4. 4Burwood Hospital Spinal Unit, Canterbury District Health Board, Christchurch, New Zealand
  1. Correspondence to Dr Sarah Derrett, Injury Prevention Research Unit, Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, Dunedin School of Medicine, PO Box 56, University of Otago, Dunedin 9056, New Zealand; sarah.derrett{at}


This paper estimates the incidence (all ages) of spinal cord neurological impairment (SCI; traumatic and non-traumatic) in New Zealand and describes pre-SCI characteristics and early post-SCI outcomes for participants (16–64 years) in this longitudinal study. Demographic and clinical data on all people admitted to New Zealand's two spinal units (mid-2007 to mid-2009) were included for the estimate of incidence. Participants in this longitudinal study were asked at first interview about pre-SCI socio-demographic, health and behavioural characteristics, and about post-SCI symptoms, general health status (EQ-5D) and disability (WHODAS 12-item). Age-adjusted incidence rates (95% CI) for European, Māori, Pacific and ‘Other’ ethnicities were 29 (24–34), 46 (30–64), 70 (40–100) and 16 (9–22) per million, respectively. Interviews with 118 (73%) participants (16–64 years), occurred 6.5 months post-SCI. Most reported bother with symptoms, and problems with health status and disability. Compared with Europeans, the incidence of SCI is high among Māori and particularly high among Pacific people. Six months after SCI, proximate to discharge from the spinal units, considerable symptomatic, general health and disability burden was borne by people with SCI.

  • Spinal cord diseases
  • burden of disease
  • epidemiology
  • disability
  • rehabilitation
  • cohort study
  • outcome evaluation
  • functional outcome
  • longitudinal
  • systematic review
  • quality of life

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  • Funding This study is funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand. The views and conclusions expressed herein are the authors' and may not reflect those of the funders.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval This study was undertaken following approval from the New Zealand Health and Disability Multi-Region Ethics Committee.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement This is the first paper from a longitudinal study. The research team are currently involved in further analysis using the data.

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