Perceived Quality of Life With Spinal Cord Injury: A Comparison Between Emergency Medicine and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Physicians

Daniel M. Cushman*, Katrina Thomas, Debjani Mukherjee, Reid Johnson, Gayle Spill

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Objective: To explore the attitudes of health care providers who treat patients with spinal cord injury (SCI) and examine whether Emergency Medicine (EM) and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) physicians differ in their judgments about quality of life (QOL) after SCI. Design: Questionnaire survey of PM&R and EM physicians. Participants: Board-certified PM&R and EM physicians listed in the American Academy of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation and the American College of Emergency Physicians and/or faculty from academic PM&R and EM departments in the United States and Canada. Main Outcome Measurements: Evaluating various aspects of perceived QOL if the physician hypothetically sustained an SCI, including impact on leisure activities, social relationships, happiness, meaningful work, satisfying sexual relationships, and overall QOL. Results: A total of 91 EM physicians and 89 PM&R physicians completed the surveys. PM&R physicians were more likely to agree that they would have a better QOL compared with EM physicians, regardless of the level of injury or aspect of life ( P < .01 in all cases). Female physicians, regardless of specialty, were more likely to choose a lower level at which they would choose to die, rather than live, if they sustained an SCI ( P = .03). Physicians in both groups were more likely to disagree that they would have a high QOL at a lower level of injury if they disagreed at a higher level of injury ( P ≤ .02). Conclusions: Regardless of specialty, PM&R and EM physicians have their own personal perceptions of QOL with SCI. PM&R physicians tend to believe that they would have a higher QOL with an SCI compared with EM physicians and likely have a more optimistic view of SCI. Patient care may be improved by interdisciplinary discussion, as evidenced by the disparity exhibited by practitioners in these 2 specialties who care for the same patient population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)962-969
Number of pages8
JournalPM and R
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology

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