There are many different causes of non-traumatic SCI, the more common conditions include spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal), tumor compression and vascular ischemia. Individuals with a non-traumatic SCI do not necessarily enter major trauma or rehabilitation centres and thus are not easily tracked in SCI registries or databases. Non-traumatic SCI has different demographics than traumatic SCI as spinal stenosis and spinal tumors are more common in adults over 50 years of age. In addition, specific diseases such as multiple sclerosis, paediatric spina bifida or poliomyelitis can also contribute to non-traumatic spinal cord injury and each has demographics specific to the condition.
Overall, compared to traumatic SCI, individuals with non-traumatic SCI tend to be older with less severe injuries, more likely to be female, married, retired, and have an incomplete paraplegic injury (McKinley et al. 1999, 2002a, 2002b). Differences in demographics, clinical presentation and rehabilitation outcomes have important implications for management of non-traumatic SCI.