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Multimorbidity in Persons with Non-traumatic Spinal Cord Injury and its Impact on Healthcare Utilization and Health Outcomes

Heather A. Hong, Nader Fallah, Di Wang, Christiana L. Cheng, Suzanne Humphreys, Jessica Parsons & Vanessa K. Noonan

Study Design

Cross-sectional survey in Canada.


To explore multimorbidity (the coexistence of two/more health conditions) in persons with non-traumatic spinal cord injury (NTSCI) and evaluate its impact on healthcare utilization (HCU) and health outcomes.


Community-dwelling persons.


Data from the Spinal Cord Injury Community Survey (SCICS) was used. A multimorbidity index (MMI) consisting of 30 secondary health conditions (SHCs), the 7-item HCU questionnaire, the Short Form-12 (SF-12), Life Satisfaction-11 first question, and single-item Quality of Life (QoL) measure were administered. Additionally, participants were grouped as “felt needed healthcare was received” (Group 1, n = 322) or “felt needed healthcare was not received” (Group 2, n = 89) using the HCU question. Associations among these variables were assessed using multivariable analysis.


408 of 412 (99%) participants with NTSCI reported multimorbidity. Constipation, spasticity, and fatigue were the most prevalent self-reported SHCs. Group 1 had a higher MMI score compared to Group 2 (p < 0.001). A higher MMI score correlated with the feeling of not receiving needed care (OR 1.4, 95% CI 1.08–1.21), lower SF-12 (physical/mental component summary scores), being unsatisfied with life, and lower QoL (all p < 0.001). Additionally, Group 1 had more females (p < 0.001), non-Caucasians (p = 0.034), and lower personal annual income (p = 0.025).


Persons with NTSCI have multimorbidity, and the MMI score was associated with increased HCU and worse health outcomes. This work emphasizes the critical need for improved healthcare and monitoring. Future work determining specific thresholds for the MMI could be helpful for triage screening to identify persons at higher risk of poor outcomes.

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