Using VA data for research in persons with spinal cord injuries and disorders: Lessons from SCI QUERI

Bridget M. Smith, Charlesnika T. Evans, Philip Ullrich, Stephen Burns, Marylou Guihan, Scott Miskevics, Sherri L. Lavela, Suparna Rajan, Frances M. Weaver

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides integrated services to more than 25,000 veterans with spinal cord injuries and disorders (SCI/D). VA data offer great potential for providing insights into healthcare utilization and morbidity, and these capabilities are central to efforts to improve healthcare for veterans with SCI/D. The objective of this article is to introduce researchers to the use of VA data to examine questions related to SCI/D using examples from Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Quality Enhancement Research Initiative studies. Sources of VA data available to investigators interested in SCI/D-related research include national-level VA administrative and clinical databases and primary data (medical record review, patient surveys). Methods used to identify veterans with SCI/D include the Allocation Resource Center cohort, the Spinal Cord Dysfunction (SCD) Registry, and the VA inpatient SCI flag; only 33% of veterans were included in all three groups (n = 12,306). While neurological level of SCI was unknown for approximately a third of veterans (from SCD Registry data alone), the percent decreased to 13% when augmented with diagnostic codes. Primary data can be used to augment other missing SCI data and to provide more detailed information about complications commonly associated with SCI/D.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)679-688
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of rehabilitation research and development
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2010


  • Data quality
  • Paraplegia
  • Pressure ulcers
  • Rehabilitation
  • Respiratory
  • Spinal cord injuries and disorders
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Tetraplegia
  • VA
  • Veterans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation

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