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Spinal Cord. 2010 Apr;48(4):313-8. doi: 10.1038/sc.2009.133. Epub 2009 Oct 13.

A 50-year follow-up of the incidence of traumatic spinal cord injuries in Western Norway.

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Department of Neurology, Haukeland University Hospital, Bergen, Norway.



Retrospective population-based epidemiological study.


To assess the prevalence and temporal trends in the incidence of traumatic spinal cord injuries (TSCI), and demographic and clinical characteristics of an unselected, geographically defined cohort in the period 1952-2001.


The patients were identified from hospital records. Crude rates and age-adjusted rates were calculated for each year. The multivariate relationship between cause of injury, age at injury, decade of injury and gender was examined using a Poisson regression model.


Of 336 patients, 199 patients were alive on 1 January 2002, giving a total prevalence of 36.5 per 100,000 inhabitants. The average annual incidence increased from 5.9 per million in the first decade to 21.2 per million in the last. Mean age at injury was 42.9 years and the male to female ratio 4.7:1. Fall was the most common cause of injury (45.5%), followed by motor vehicle accidents (MVA) (34.2%). The incidence of MVA-related injuries increased during the observation period, especially among men <30 years. The lesion level was cervical in 52.4%, thoracic in 29.5% and lumbar/sacral in 18.2%. The lesion was clinically incomplete in 58.6% and complete in 41.4%. The incidence of fall-related injuries and the proportion of incomplete cervical lesions increased during the observation period, especially among men >60 years.


The incidence of TSCI has increased during the past 50 years. Falls and MVA are potentially preventable causes. The increasing proportion of older patients with cervical lesions poses a challenge to the health system.

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