Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2008 Jul;89(7):1350-7.

Spinal cord injury and co-occurring traumatic brain injury: assessment and incidence.

Macciocchi S, Seel RT, Thompson N, Byams R, Bowman B.
Shepherd Center, Atlanta, GA 30309, USA.

OBJECTIVES: To examine prospectively the incidence and severity of co-occurring traumatic brain injury (TBI) in persons with traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) and to describe a TBI assessment process for SCI rehabilitation professionals. DESIGN: A prospective, cohort design to collect and analyze clinical variables relevant for diagnosing co-occurring TBI. SETTING: An urban, single-center National Institute of Disability and Rehabilitation Research Model Spinal Cord Injury System in the Southeastern United States. PARTICIPANTS: People (N=198) who met inclusion criteria and provided consent within an 18-month recruitment window. INTERVENTIONS: Not applicable. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE: FIM cognitive scale. RESULTS: Based on participants' presence and duration of posttraumatic amnesia, initial Glasgow Coma Scale total score, and presence of cerebral lesion documented by neuroimaging, 60% of our traumatic SCI sample also sustained a TBI (n=118). Most co-occurring TBIs were mild (34%). Co-occurring mild complicated (10%), moderate (6%), and severe TBI (10%) were less common but still occurred in a significant percentage (26%) of persons with traumatic SCI. Persons with traumatic SCI who were injured in motor vehicle collisions and falls were more likely to sustain a co-occurring TBI. Cervical level traumatic SCI was associated with greater rates of TBI but not more severe injuries. Tree analyses established a practical algorithm for classifying TBI severity associated with traumatic SCI. Analysis of variance established criterion validity for the algorithm's TBI severity classifications. CONCLUSIONS: Findings from our prospective study provide strong support that TBI is a common co-occurring injury with traumatic SCI. Incomplete acute care medical record documentation of TBI in the traumatic SCI population remains a considerable issue, and there is a significant need to educate emergency department and acute care personnel on the TBI clinical data needs of acute rehabilitation providers. A systematic algorithm for reviewing acute care medical records can yield valid estimates of TBI severity in the traumatic SCI population.