Costs and Length of Stay for the Acute Care of Patients with Motor-Complete Spinal Cord Injury Following Cervical Trauma: The Impact of Early Transfer to Specialized Acute SCI Center

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Acute spinal cord injury (SCI) centers aim to optimize outcome following SCI. However, there is no timeframe to transfer patients from regional to SCI centers in order to promote cost-efficiency of acute care. Our objective was to compare costs and length of stay (LOS) following early and late transfer to the SCI center.


A retrospective cohort study involving 116 individuals was conducted. Group 1 (n = 87) was managed in an SCI center promptly after the trauma, whereas group 2 (n = 29) was transferred to the SCI center only after surgery. Direct comparison and multivariate linear regression analyses were used to assess the relationship between costs, LOS, and timing to transfer to the SCI center.


Length of stay was significantly longer for group 2 (median, 93.0 days) as compared with group 1 (median, 40.0 days; P < 10−3), and average costs were also higher (median, Canadian $17,920.0 vs. $10,521.6; P = 0.004) for group 2, despite similar characteristics. Late transfer to the SCI center was the main predictive factor of longer LOS and increased costs.


Early admission to the SCI center was associated with shorter LOS and lower costs for patients sustaining tetraplegia. Early referral to an SCI center before surgery could lower the financial burden for the health care system.

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CME Objectives

Upon completion of this article, the reader should be able to: (1) Determine the optimal timing for transfer of individuals with cervical traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) in order to decrease acute care resource utilization; (2) Determine benefits of a complete perioperative management in a specialized SCI center; and (3) Identify factors that may influence resource utilization for acute care following motor-complete tetraplegia.




The Association of Academic Physiatrists is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians.


The Association of Academic Physiatrists designates this activity for a maximum of 1.5AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)™. Physicians should only claim credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

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