Thomas Jefferson University Research Magazine



Diagnosing and assessing spinal cord injury (SCI) in children and adolescents has long been a challenging task, as has been the application of relevant and established outcomes measures for these patients. “In adults, the neurological consequence of SCI is determined by physically examining 56 sites on the patient’s body— examinations that require full participation and cognitive awareness,” explains Mary Jane (MJ) Mulcahey, PhD, professor of occupational therapy.

“But we showed in a study of 236 children with SCI that children younger than six years—and some up to 10 years old—are not able to participate effectively. The clinical assessment of SCI is also challenging with adults who have brain injury or are in a coma or medical-induced sedation. We need to develop imaging biomarkers that tell us—regardless of a patient’s age or mental capacity—the precise extent of damage.”