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This article has been peer reviewed. It is the author’s final published version in Global Spine Journal

Volume 7, Issue 3 Supplement, September 2017, Pages 175S-194S.

The published version is available at DOI: 10.1177/2192568217703084. Copyright © Burns et al.


Objectives: The objective of this study was to conduct a systematic review of the literature to address the following clinical questions: In adult patients with acute and subacute complete or incomplete traumatic SCI, (1) does the time interval between injury and commencing rehabilitation affect outcome?; (2) what is the comparative effectiveness of different rehabilitation strategies, including different intensities and durations of treatment?; (3) are there patient or injury characteristics that affect the efficacy of rehabilitation?; and (4) what is the cost-effectiveness of various rehabilitation strategies? Methods: A systematic search was conducted for literature published through March 31, 2015 that evaluated rehabilitation strategies in adults with acute or subacute traumatic SCI at any level. Studies were critically appraised individually and the overall strength of evidence was evaluated using methods proposed by the GRADE (Grades of Recommendation Assessment, Development and Evaluation) working group. Results: The search strategy yielded 384 articles, 19 of which met our inclusion criteria. Based on our results, there was no difference between body weight–supported treadmill training and conventional rehabilitation with respect to improvements in Functional Independence Measure (FIM) Locomotor score, Lower Extremity Motor Scores, the distance walked in 6 minutes or gait velocity over 15.2 m. Functional electrical therapy resulted in slightly better FIM Motor, FIM Self-Care, and Spinal Cord Independence Measure Self-Care subscores compared with conventional occupational therapy. Comparisons using the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute Hand Function Test demonstrated no differences between groups in 7 of 9 domains. There were no clinically important differences in Maximal Lean Test, Maximal Sidewards Reach Test, T-shirt Test, or the Canadian Occupational Performance Measure between unsupported sitting training and standard in-patient rehabilitation. Conclusion: The current evidence base for rehabilitation following acute and subacute spinal cord injury is limited. Methodological challenges have contributed to this and further research is still needed. © 2017, © The Author(s) 2017.

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