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Functional independence and rehabilitation outcome in traumatic spinal cord injury.

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  • 1Division of Physical Therapy, Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Faculty of Medicine at Ramathibodi Hospital, Mahidol University, Bangkok.


The purpose of this study was to investigation functional independence and rehabilitation outcomes of traumatic spinal cord patients. The data were obtained for 38 patients with traumatic spinal cord lesions admitted to the physical therapy unit from 1997 to 2001. The mean age was 32 +/- 6.48 years. Functional improvement was presented in terms of progress in independence in six daily activities. Independence was rated on a four-point scale. From admission to six months, significant increases in functional independence were made in self-care, sphincter control, mobility and locomotion. Differences were found in the extent of functional improvement between subgroups of patients with different levels and extents of lesions. Contrary to expectations based on theoretical models, patients with complete paraplegia did not achieve maximal independence in self-care activities. Regarding the outcome of bladder management, poor results were found. Interestingly, independence in bowel management, independent mobility and locomotion were only attained by patients with incomplete lesions. This study provides insight into the functional outcomes of a group of patients with traumatic spinal cord injury. More research is needed to determine the optimal rehabilitation program for these patients.

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