OBJECTIVE: Compare rehabilitation after spinal cord lesions (SCL) in different countries.
DESIGN: Multicenter comparative study.
SETTING: Four spinal rehabilitation units, in Denmark, Russia, Lithuania and Israel.
SUBJECTS: 199 SCL patients.
INTERVENTIONS: Information was collected about unit properties, rehabilitation objectives, American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) scale and spinal cord independence measure (SCIM) assessments, and patient data. chi (2)-test, t-test, ANOVA and ANCOVA were used for statistical analysis.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Time from lesion onset to admission for rehabilitation (TAR), length of stay in rehabilitation (LOS), SCIM and spinal cord ability realization measurement index (SCI-ARMI) scores, SCIM gain, SCI-ARMI gain and rehabilitation efficiency (RE).
RESULTS: Differences were found between the units in rehabilitation objectives, facilities and special equipment for rehabilitation. Staff/bed ratio was 1.7 in Lithuania and Denmark, 1.1 in Israel and 0.9 in Russia. Russian patients were the youngest and had the most severe lesions among participating units. Admission SCIM and SCI-ARMI were the lowest in Israel: 25.1+/-17.2 and 34.3+/-17.3. TAR was highest in Russia (12.4 month) and lowest in Israel (2 weeks; P<0.01). LOS was longest in Denmark (176.9 days; P<0.001). SCIM score at the end of rehabilitation was highest in Denmark (67.3+/-23). SCIM gain and SCI ARMI gain were highest in Israel (36.9+/-18.3 and 38.5+/-19.4, respectively) and lowest in Russia (P<0.001). RE was highest in Lithuania and lowest in Denmark (P<0.001).
CONCLUSIONS: In the participating units, SCL rehabilitation outcomes depend on SCL severity and unit-specific properties. A moderately delayed rehabilitation with long LOS achieved high functioning, and early or slightly delayed rehabilitation combined with shorter LOS achieved high functional gain or efficiency.