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Factors Associated with Recovery in Motor Strength, Walking Ability, and Bowel and Bladder Function after Traumatic Cauda Equina Injury

Najmedden Attabib, Dilnur Kurban, Christiana L. Cheng, Carly S. Rivers, Christopher S. Bailey, Sean Christie, Karen Ethans, Heather Flett, Julio C. Furlan, Eve C. Tsai, and Colleen O’Connell.

Published online doi: 10.1089/neu.2020.7303


Traumatic cauda equina injury (TCEI) is usually caused by spine injury at or below L1 and can result in motor and/or sensory impairments and/or neurogenic bowel and bladder. We examined factors associated with recovery in motor strength, walking ability, and bowel and bladder function to aid in prognosis and establishing rehabilitation goals. The analysis cohort was comprised of persons with acute TCEI enrolled in the Rick Hansen Spinal Cord Injury Registry. Multi-variable regression analysis was used to determine predictors for lower-extremity motor score (LEMS) at discharge, walking ability at discharge as assessed by the walking subscores of either the Functional Independence Measure (FIM) or Spinal Cord Independence Measure (SCIM), and improvement in bowel and bladder function as assessed by FIM-relevant subscores. Age, sex, neurological level and severity of injury, time from injury to surgery, rehabilitation onset, and length of stay were examined as potential confounders. The cohort included 214 participants. Median improvement in LEMS was 4 points. Fifty-two percent of participants were able to walk, and >20% recovered bowel and bladder function by rehabilitation discharge. Multi-variable analyses revealed that shorter time from injury to rehabilitation admission (onset) was a significant predictor for both improvement in walking ability and bowel function. Longer rehabilitation stay and being an older female were associated with improved bladder function. Our results suggest that persons with TCEI have a reasonable chance of recovery in walking ability and bowel and bladder function. This study provides important information for rehabilitation goals setting and communication with patients and their families regarding prognosis.

Funding support

The Rick Hansen Spinal Cord Injury Registry and this work are supported by funding from the Praxis Spinal Cord Institute, Health Canada, Western Economic Diversification Canada, and the Governments of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, and Ontario

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