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Chronic spinal cord injury

Spinal cord injury (SCI) is a life-long condition affecting over 40,000 people in the UK. While the life expectancy for people with SCI is less than for the general population, it continues to increase and people with SCI are increasingly suffering from age-related diseases including cardiovascular disease, infection and malignancies, and general physicians are likely to find themselves caring for people with SCI in acute hospital settings.

In addition, those with SCI are at greater risk of hospital admission every year following their injury compared with the general population. When a person with chronic SCI is admitted to hospital for a procedure or because of illness, hospital teams need to manage both the acute condition and the spinal cord injury. In hospitals where SCI patients are rarely seen and their specialist needs are not addressed, complications related to the disease itself – rather than the reason for admission – are very common.

This guideline is aimed at general physicians and other healthcare professionals who are involved in the management of adults with SCI in the acute hospital setting.