Longitudinal outcomes in spinal cord injury: aging, secondary conditions, and well-being.

Objective: To specify the degree to which current age, duration of injury, and neurologic status affect the frequency of secondary health and psychosocial conditions in persons with long-term spinal cord injury (SCI), using both longitudinal and cross-sectional analysis techniques.

Design: Prospective longitudinal examination and data collection involving individuals with SCI studied initially at their 5th, 10th, and 15th anniversaries postinjury, and subsequently 5 years later at their 10th, 15th, and 20th anniversaries postinjury.

Setting: Five Regional Model Spinal Cord Injury Systems.

Participants: The 439 individuals who meet the inclusion criteria for the National SCI Database and who are enrolled in a longitudinal study of secondary conditions and SCI.

Main Outcome Measures: Physical and psychosocial status at various times postinjury. Results: There are different reports of various conditions when analyzing by neurologic groups, duration of injury, and age. Cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses also demonstrate different patterns of complications.

Conclusion: The longitudinal method, like cross-sectional research, allows for identification of physical and psychosocial changes soon after they occur. Longitudinal research, however, also makes possible the development of predictive models for various long-term outcomes.