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Department of Rehabilitation Medicine

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Weight gain following spinal cord injury: a pilot study


Crane DA, Little JW, Burns SP



Publication Info:

The Journal of Spinal Cord Medicine, 34(2):227-232


STUDY DESIGN: Retrospective chart review.
OBJECTIVE: To define the temporal course of weight gain in persons with new spinal cord injury (SCI), and to identify predictors of weight gain in this population.
SETTING: A United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) SCI Unit.
METHODS: A retrospective chart review in a VA SCI Unit was conducted. Participants (n = 85) included all persons with new SCI completing initial rehabilitation at the center between 1998 and 2006. Outcome measures were mean change in body mass index (BMI) between rehabilitation admission and final follow-up, time of greatest BMI change, and distribution of participants by BMI classification. These measures were also examined relative to SCI level, American Spinal Injury Association Impairment Scale (AIS) grade, primary mode of mobility, and age at rehabilitation admission.
RESULTS: Mean BMI increased by 2.3 kg/m2 between rehabilitation admission (mean 45 days post-injury) and final follow-up (mean 5 years post-injury). The distribution of participants shifted from lower BMI classifications at rehabilitation admission to higher BMI classifications at final follow-up. For participants transitioning from normal to overweight or obese, the greatest increase occurred during the first year after acute rehabilitation. Neurological level, impairment category, primary mode of mobility, and age at rehabilitation admission did not significantly predict BMI change. BMI at rehabilitation admission correlated significantly with BMI at final follow-up (P < 0.0005).
CONCLUSIONS: These findings confirm a significant increase in BMI after new SCI and suggest that persons with new SCI are at greatest weight gain risk during the first year following acute rehabilitation.

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