Age-related differences in length of stays, hospitalization costs, and outcomes for an injury-matched sample of adults with paraplegia

Ronald T. Seel*, Mark E. Huang, David X. Cifu, Stephanie A. Kolakowsky-Hayner, William O. McKinley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Objective: To investigate the effects of age at injury on neurological and functional outcomes and hospitalization length of stays and charges following spinal cord injuries resulting in paraplegia. Methods: Subjects were 180 adults with paraplegia who were assessed in acute care and inpatient rehabilitation as part of the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research Model Spinal Cord Injury Systems. Age differences were examined by separating the sample into 3 age groups (18-39, 40-59, and 60+ years). A matched block design was used to control for injury characteristics. Cramer's statistic was used to identify age-related differences in qualitative variables; 3 × 5 one-way analysis of variance identified the main effects of age on quantitative variables. Tukey post hoc tests were performed to identify differences between age and age x injury characteristic variable levels. Outcome and Treatment Measures: American Spinal Injury Association motor index scores, Functional Independence Measure (FIM) motor scores, discharge to private residence ratios, and hospitalization length of stays and charges were outcome and treatment measures. Results: Age-related differences were found for etiology and health care plan, as well as for preinjury marital status, education level, and employment status. The main effects of age at injury were found for the following treatment and outcome measures: rehabilitation length of stays, FIM motor scores at rehabilitation discharge, FIM motor improvement (change), and FIM motor daily improvement (efficiency). Tukey post hoc tests revealed that older patients had longer rehabilitation stays, lower rehabilitation discharge FIM motor scores, and showed less improvement compared with younger and middle-aged injury-matched patients. No age-related differences were found in rates of discharge disposition. Conclusions: Using a matched block design procedure, older patients are discharged with lower levels of functional independence and show lower levels of improvement despite longer rehabilitation stays when compared with younger patients. Older patients' neurological recovery appears equivocal to younger patients' recovery. In contrast to findings with a matched tetraplegia sample, older and younger patients with paraplegia are discharged to private residences at similar rates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)241-250
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Spinal Cord Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 2001


  • Age
  • Costs
  • Outcome
  • Paraplegia
  • Rehabilitation
  • Spinal cord injuries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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