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Thread: Terminology..complete-incomplete vs. ASIA

  1. #1

    Terminology..complete-incomplete vs. ASIA

    From my readings on these forums over the years, I've learned that the terms "complete" and "incomplete" are passe'. ASIA classification is the proper way to evaluate a spinal cord injury, and predict recovery outcome.

    1. Are insurance companies using complete/incomplete or ASIA?

    2. Why does the community itself continue to use the wrong terms?

    3. Why does the "Average Josephine" like to ask..."was your cord severed?"

    If even we as a community continue to be small minded and lazy about the terms we use, how can we expect anything different from the medical professions and research?

  2. #2
    Senior Member lynnifer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Windsor ON Canada
    AMERICAN Spinal Injury Association ... there's your answer. Never heard of it until I came here as a Canadian.
    Roses are red. Tacos are enjoyable. Don't blame immigrants, because you're unemployable.

    T-11 Flaccid Paraplegic due to TM July 1985 @ age 12

  3. #3
    Actually, the exam is no longer called the ASIA (which was developed by the American Spinal Injury Association, which has Canadian members as well). Several years ago, the ASIA exam was also adopted by ISCoS (The International Spinal Cord Society), which has members all over the world, and at that time the exam was renamed the International Standards for Neurologic Classification of Spinal Cord Injury (ISNCSCI). The ASIA title is not supposed to be used anymore for the exam, but old habits die hard, and there is no easy short hand for ISCNSCI, so many clinicians continue to use that term.

    Many also use the term (incorrectly) "ASIA A" (for complete) or "ASIA B, C, D, or E" for incomplete injuries. The correct abbreviation is actually "AIS A" or "AIS B (C, D, or E)". AIS stands for "ASIA Impairment Scale". It is part of scoring the ISCNSCI. The ISCNSCI tests sensation in all dermatomes (pin prick for pain, cotton wisp for touch), key muscles (on the 0-5 scale) and determines the LOI (level of injury). Additionally, once the exam is done, the information is used to determine the AIS. The injury then should be described as the LOI + the AIS. For example: C6 AIS B, or T10 AIS A, or T4 AIS C, etc.

    In addition, many clinicians have not been properly trained to do the ISNCSCI (or the ASIA). It is not routinely included in education for neurologists or neurosurgeons unless they work in a major SCI Center during their training, or are doing research related to SCI. Most physiatrists are trained in it, but if they did not also do a spinal cord fellowship, or become board certified in Spinal Cord Medicine as well, or spend most of their practice doing SCI care, they get rusty and often sloppy in administering the exam. Even at the center where I work, we found we had to require the physicians and PAs, who do only SCI care in their practice, to retake the ASIA website training/certification course in using the ISNCSCI annually in order to maintain competency.

    Insurance companies use the ICD 9, or ICD 10 (which is newly rolled out and replacing the ICD 9) for all medical diagnoses. This does NOT entail the ISNCSCI specifically.

    You can see the ICD 10 codes here just for thoracic injuries:
    Here are the codes for cervical injuries:
    and lumbar injury codes:
    and cauda equina codes:

    Last edited by SCI-Nurse; 08-23-2015 at 03:34 PM. Reason: corrected error

  4. #4
    Senior Member lynnifer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Windsor ON Canada
    Interesting. Had no idea! Wish it would stop changing, lol!
    Roses are red. Tacos are enjoyable. Don't blame immigrants, because you're unemployable.

    T-11 Flaccid Paraplegic due to TM July 1985 @ age 12

  5. #5
    Anticipate it changing again within a few years, as the push to include trunk muscle assessment/testing is becoming stronger. Currently only arm and leg muscles are assessed, with thoracic injury level being based only on sensation. Dr. Young has been part of the development and revision of these standards, so may weigh in on this too.


  6. #6
    Is it just me? Or is there a "war" on cancer....but curing spinal cord injury is somebody's DIY project in the back of their garage? "Someday!..." you get it

  7. #7
    Here's an example: Even University of Alabama uses the term "complete/incomplete" in their literature.

    What is the benefit to the community as a whole by keeping them misinformed and stupid about the complexity of the injury and recovery outcomes? It's not rocket's a simple lab exam

  8. #8
    The terms complete and incomplete are not incorrect, they are just not as specific as the AIS scale, nor the definitions for the incomplete syndromes (anterior cord syndrome, Brown-Sequard, central cord syndrome, posterior cord syndrome, etc.). Those are still legitimately used to describe the extent of injury, legitimate diagnoses, and used by health care professionals the world over.


  9. #9
    Since we are on the topic of ICD-10, I found this to be the most robust and user-friendly ICD-10 tool. It has all codes and even provides a free training tool to use.


  10. #10
    Senior Member NW-Will's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Vancouver WA USA - - Male T4 ASIA B incomplete
    From a class my PCA is taking

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