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Phys Med Rehabil Clin N Am. 2005 Feb;16(1):129-61.

Aging with spinal cord injury.

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Mount Sinai School of Medicine, 1425 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10029, USA.


The years after SCI may be associated with acceleration of the aging process because of diminished physiologic reserves and increased demands on functioning body systems. Clinicians with expertise in the treatment and prevention of SCI-specific secondary complications need to collaborate with gerontologists and primary care specialists and need to invest in the training of future physicians to ensure a continuum of accessible, cost-effective, and high-quality care that meets the changing needs of the SCI population. Managed care payers often do not adequately cover long-term disability needs to prevent secondary SCI-specific complications. In this era of increasing accountability, evidence-based clinical practice guidelines are needed to document scientific evidence and professional consensus to effectively diagnose, treat, and manage clinical conditions; to reduce unnecessary testing and procedures; and to improve patient outcomes. Longitudinal research is needed to minimize cohort effects that contribute to misinterpretation of cross-sectional findings as representative of long-term changes in health and functioning. However, longitudinal studies confound chronologic age, time since injury, and environmental change. Thus, time-sequential research, which controls for such confounding effects, is essential, as is research on the effects of gender,culture, and ethnicity. If we consider how much progress has been made over the past 50 years with respect to SCI mortality related to infectious disease, we can expect to achieve even greater progress against the effects of aging in the next 50 years. Recent developments in molecular biology regarding growth and neuro-trophic factors are bringing us closer to the goal of repairing the damaged spinal cord. The challenge remains for rehabilitation professionals to provide the most comprehensive and holistic approach to long-term follow-up, with an emphasis on health promotion and disease prevention, to postpone functional decline and enhance QOL.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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