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Spinal Cord. 2012 Feb;50(2):123-6. doi: 10.1038/sc.2011.105. Epub 2011 Sep 27.

Epidemiology of traumatic spinal cord injuries in Iceland from 1975 to 2009.

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Rehabilitation Department, Landspitali University Hospital, Reykjavík, Iceland.



Retrospective population-based epidemiological study.


To assess the nationwide, population-based incidence, causes, age, gender, extent and prevalence of spinal cord injuries (SCIs) in Iceland from 1975 to 2009.


Landspitali University Hospital in Iceland, the single referral center for SCIs in Iceland.


A retrospective review of hospital records on all admissions due to SCIs. Analysis of incidence, causes, age, gender, extent of injury and prevalence.


A total of 207 patients with traumatic spinal cord injury (TSCI) were admitted: males 72%, females 28%. The percentage of females with TSCI increased to 37% in 2000-2004. Mean age at injury was 38 years. Average incidence per million population per year was 30 in 1975-1979, 12.5 in 1995-1999 and 33.5 in 2005-2009. Thirty-day mortality was 6.3%. Causes of injury were road traffic accidents (RTA) in 42.5% of the cases; the majority did not use seatbelts. Falls amounted to 30.9%, with an increase of low falls among the elderly causing incomplete cervical lesions. Sport/leisure activities were the cause in 18.8%, of which 54% occurred after 2000. The main single cause of TSCI in sport/leisure were horse-riding accidents, followed by winter sport accidents, especially among women. Other causes constituted 7.7%. The injury was complete in 39%; cervical lesions were 57% and thoracic/lumbar lesions were 43%. In December 2009, the crude prevalence rate was 526 per million population.


The findings showed a significant increase of TSCI in 2005-2009, especially in sport/leisure accidents and incomplete cervical lesions due to falls among elderly. Prevention strategies need to focus on these risk groups and on seatbelt use.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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