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UK Aging Study

PI: Susan Charlifue, PhD
Funded by: The James E. Burns and Kris Burns Research Fund
Dates: Ongoing (started in 1990)
Contact: Susan Charlifue – Susie@craighospital.org
303 789 8306

Spinal cord injuries can occur in a fraction of an instant, but the resulting physical limitations frequently last a lifetime. Historically, research efforts have focused on the immediate consequences of traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) -- identifying associated medical conditions and assessing adjustment and community reintegration following initial rehabilitation. The value of this early research has enabled spinal cord injury health care providers to eliminate or minimize many of the complications that previously impeded successful re-entry to the community.

It is now acknowledged that most spinal cord injury survivors undergo a continuous process of change throughout their lives. These changes often manifest themselves as in ways which may adversely affect an individual's function, both physically and in terms of community integration. These secondary complications or secondary disabilities may be the result of chronic or newly-acquired medical problems, declining health status, changes in the support systems, or cumulative stresses caused by both the disability itself and the society in which the individual with a disability has had to live. Since 1990, Craig Hospital has actively pursued an examination of these changes over long periods of time following SCI, managing a collaborative study of aging with SCI in the United Kingdom, where some of the world’s first comprehensive spinal injuries centers were located. The National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, and the Northwest Regional Spinal Injuries Centre in Southport, Merseyside are our participants in this study. Initially, we enrolled 282 individuals who, as of 1990, were all at least 20 years post-injury. They participated in full physical examinations and detailed interviews regarding their medical history, health and functional status, as well as a series of psychosocial questionnaires.

Subsequent to the initial study, longitudinal data collection with this group of individuals occurred in 1993, 1996, 1999, 2002 and 2006. Numerous presentations and publications have been produced from this study, which is considered to be landmark achievement in bettering our understanding of the natural course of aging with SCI.

As a result of the early analyses of study data, a series of consumer-oriented brochures were developed at Craig Hospital and these are available on the Craig web site. However, the wealth of data provides us with an unprecedented opportunity to perform much more detailed analysis, which is our current focus. With assistance from biostatisticians from the University of Colorado Health and Sciences Center, longitudinal analyses of these data is on-going, and we anticipate several publications and presentations to develop from this continued work.