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Spinal Cord. 2012 Aug;50(8):579-84. doi: 10.1038/sc.2012.25. Epub 2012 Mar 27.

Incidence and predictors of contracture after spinal cord injury--a prospective cohort study.

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The George Institute for Global Health, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.



Prospective cohort study.


To determine incidence of contracture and develop prediction models to identify patients susceptible to contracture after spinal cord injury.


Two Sydney spinal cord injury units.


A total of 92 consecutive patients with acute spinal cord injury were assessed within 35 days of injury and 1 year later. Incidence of contracture at 1 year was measured in all major appendicular joints by categorizing range of motion on a 4-point scale (0-no contracture to 3-severe contracture), and in the wrist, elbow, hip and ankle by measuring range of motion at standardized torque. Multivariate models were developed to predict contracture at 1 year using age, neurological status, spasticity, pain and limb fracture recorded at the time of injury.


At 1 year, 66% of participants developed at least one contracture (defined as ≥1 point deterioration on the 4-point scale). Incidence of contracture at each joint was: shoulder 43%, elbow and forearm 33%, wrist and hand 41%, hip 32%, knee 11% and ankle 40%. Incidence of contracture determined by standardized torque measures of range (defined as loss of ≥10 degrees) was: elbow 27%, wrist 26%, hip 23% and ankle 25%. Prediction models were statistically significant but lacked sufficient predictive accuracy to be clinically useful (R(2)≤31%).


The incidence of contracture in major joints 1 year after spinal cord injury ranges from 11-43%. The ankle, wrist and shoulder are most commonly affected. It is difficult to accurately predict those susceptible to contracture soon after injury.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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