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Epidemiology of Pediatric SCI


As defined by the CDC, epidemiology is the, “Study of the distribution and determinants of health-related states or events in specified populations, and the application of this study to the control of health problems,” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2012). Distribution, as it pertains to epidemiology, can be broken down into frequency (i.e., the number of health events in a population), prevalence (i.e., the relationship of the number of health events to the size of the population), and incidence of health events in a population (i.e., pattern, the occurrence of health-related events by time, place, and person). Incidence and prevalence related to pediatric spinal cord injury (SCI) will be discussed further in this chapter. The determinants of the epidemiology of pediatric SCI, causes, and other factors that influence the occurrence of disease and other health-related events (etiology) will also be examined. While SCI in the pediatric population is relatively rare, it carries significant psychological and physiological consequences (Kokoska et al. 2001).

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) (2021) categorizes SCI etiology based on the presence of iatrogenic elements (whether a condition is caused by a physician or medication). Subsequently, NINDS common data elements (CDEs) break SCI into traumatic and non-traumatic injuries. Traumatic injuries include sports/leisure activity injuries, assault, transport, fall, birth injuries, and other injuries with traumatic causes. Non-traumatic injuries consist of those congenital or genetic in etiology, vascular in etiology, infectious in etiology, degenerative, tumor, or other non-traumatic spinal cord dysfunction (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke 2021). This chapter is organized based on the NINDS CDEs and will also touch on the incidence and prevalence of pediatric SCI in places across the globe.

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