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Prognosis and recovery in ischaemic and traumatic spinal cord injury: clinical and electrophysiological evaluation
  1. Esther Iseli,
  2. Arno Cavigelli,
  3. Volker Dietz,
  4. Armin Curt
  1. Swiss Paraplegic Centre, University Hospital Balgrist, Zürich, Switzerland
  1. Dr Armin Curt, University Hospital Balgrist, Forchstrasse 340, CH 8008, Zürich, Switzerland. Telephone 0041 1 3863904; fax 0041 1 3863909; email acurt{at}


OBJECTIVES To compare prognostic factors and functional recovery between paraplegic patients with either ischaemic (28 patients) or traumatic (39 patients) spinal cord injury (SCI).

METHODS On admission to the spinal injury centre and 6 months later the patients underwent clinical (following the guidelines set down by the American Spinal Injury Association) and electrophysiological (tibial and pudendal somatosensory evoked potentials) examinations in parallel. The degree of ambulatory capacity was assessed after discharge from the rehabilitation programme or at least 6 months after trauma.

RESULTS At the acute stage of either ischaemic or traumatic SCI similar motor and sensory deficits and pathological SSEP recordings were present. Both patient groups recovered to similar degrees with respect to motor, sensory, and ambulatory capacity. The clinical examination in both patient groups was the most sensitive prognostic factor of functional recovery irrespective of the aetiology of the SCI. In the ischaemic patients only the tibial SSEP whereas in the traumatic patients both the pudendal and tibial SSEP were of value in predicting recovery.

CONCLUSIONS Although the two patient groups are pathophysiologically different, the severity and extent of neurological deficits and rate of recovery are quite similar. In both ischaemic and traumatic SCI clinical and electrophysiological examinations are of prognostic value for the functional recovery.

  • ischaemic spinal cord injury
  • traumatic spinal cord injury
  • prognosis
  • somatosensory evoked potentials

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