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Epidemiology of pediatric spinal cord injury in the United States: years 1997 and 2000.

PURPOSE: The purpose of this study is to report the current incidence rates of pediatric spinal cord injury (SCI) in the United States and identify specific high-risk populations as a knowledge basis for improving the prevention and treatment of this traumatic injury.

METHODS: The Kids' Inpatient Database (KID) and the National Trauma Data Bank (NTDB) were used to investigate the etiology of pediatric SCI.

RESULTS: Significant differences in the annual incidence rate of pediatric SCI were found to exist between patient populations stratified by race and sex. African Americans (1.53 cases/100,000 children) exhibit a significantly higher rate of pediatric SCI than native Americans (1.00), Hispanics (0.87), and Asians (0.36), whereas Asians show a significantly lower incidence than all other races. Also, boys (2.79) are more than twice as likely to experience SCI as girls (1.15). The overall incidence of pediatric SCI in the United States is 1.99 cases per 100,000 children. From these data, it is estimated that 1455 children are admitted to US hospitals each year for treatment of SCI. The etiology of pediatric SCI was also investigated, and the major causative factors were identified: motor vehicle accident (56%), accidental fall (14%), firearm injury (9%), and sports injury (7%). Of those children injured in a motor vehicle accident, 67.7% (n = 107) were reported as not wearing a seatbelt. The role of alcohol and drugs was also investigated and found to be involved in 30% (n = 82) of all pediatric SCI cases.

CONCLUSIONS: Using discharge records from a public database, it is possible to identify high-risk demographic groups and activities that predispose a child to SCI. With a more thorough understanding of the etiology of pediatric SCI, clinicians and parents are better equipped to devise measures for prevention and treatment of this injury.

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