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Spinal Cord Injury Community Personal Opinions and Perspectives on Spinal Cord Stimulation

Nancy P. Thorogood; Zeina Waheed; John Chernesky; Ian Burkhart; Judith Smith; Shannon Sweeney; Rob Wudlick; Sam Douglas; Di Wang; Vanessa K. Noonan


Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) clinical trials are evaluating its efficacy and safety for motor, sensory, and autonomic recovery following spinal cord injury (SCI). The perspectives of people living with SCI are not well known and can inform the planning, delivery, and translation of SCS.


To obtain input from people living with SCI on the top priorities for recovery, expected meaningful benefits, risk tolerance, clinical trial design, and overall interest in SCS.


Data were collected anonymously from an online survey between February and May 2020.

A total of 223 respondents living with SCI completed the survey. The majority of respondents identified their gender as male (64%), were 10+ years post SCI (63%), and had a mean age of 50.8 years. Most individuals had a traumatic SCI (81%), and 45% classified themselves as having tetraplegia. Priorities for improved outcome for those with complete or incomplete tetraplegia included fine motor skills and upper body function, whereas priorities for complete or incomplete paraplegia included standing and walking, and bowel function. The meaningful benefits that are important to achieve are bowel and bladder care, less reliance on caregivers, and maintaining physical health. Perceived potential risks include further loss of function, neuropathic pain, and complications. Barriers to participation in clinical trials include inability to relocate, out-of-pocket expenses, and awareness of therapy. Respondents were more interested in transcutaneous SCS than epidural SCS (80% and 61%, respectively).


SCS clinical trial design, participant recruitment, and translation of the technology can be improved by better reflecting the priorities and preferences of those living with SCI identified from this study.

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