Although experience suggests a shift in the epidemiology of spinal cord injury (SCI) toward an older demographic, population studies are lacking. We aimed to evaluate (1) how the epidemiology and age profile of SCI have changed over time, and (2) how increased age impacts health outcomes up to 15 years post-injury.
A population-based cohort study was performed in Ontario including adults diagnosed with traumatic SCI between 2002 and 2017. Older and younger SCI cohorts were created based on an age cutoff of 65 years. An older cohort of uninjured persons was matched to the older SCI cohort based on age, gender, and comorbidity status.
Changes in crude incidence were reported as average annual percentage change (AAPC). Survival, readmissions, and costs were compared between the older and younger SCI cohorts as well as the between the older SCI and older matched uninjured cohorts. The incidence of SCI increased among females (AAPC 2.2; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.1, 4.3), driven by a marked rise (4%/year) among elderly females (AAPC 4.3; 95% CI 0.1, 4.3). Although no change in incidence was detected for males, there was a trend toward increased incidence among older males (AAPC 1.2; 95% CI −1.3, 3.8). There were a higher proportion of cervical, incomplete, and fall-related injuries in the older than in younger SCI cohorts. Being over 65 years of age was associated with a sixfold increased risk of death (hazard ratio [HR] 5.75; 95% CI 4.72, 7.00). In comparison with the older uninjured cohort, the older SCI cohort had double the risk of death (HR 2.23; 95% CI 2.00, 2.50). Older persons with SCI had higher odds of readmission and higher costs.
The incidence of SCI among the elderly is increasing, particularly among women. Prevention through fall reduction and education to improve outcomes are needed.
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