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OEF/OIF Veterans with Spinal Cord Injury and Additional Problems Require Timely Intervention to Avoid Rehabilitation Delays


Between May 2002 and September 2007, 113 soldiers received VA treatment and/or rehabilitation after sustaining a spinal cord injury (SCI) while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. This study sought to describe the perspectives of providers at VA SCI Centers who have cared for these returning soldiers. Investigators surveyed 38 providers (physicians, nurses, therapists, social workers, and psychologists) at 17 SCI Centers regarding issues they encountered (e.g., medical, rehabilitation, psychosocial, etc), in addition to questions about co-occurring injuries such as traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Findings show that soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with SCI often have additional medical and psychosocial problems that require timely intervention to avoid significant delays in rehabilitation. For example, many present with TBI, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and fractures; PTSD was most common. Rehabilitation was often delayed because these problems needed to be addressed first. Other findings show that soldiers with SCI had strong support from family and friends and are motivated to integrate back into the community after discharge (most were on active duty when transferred from military treatment to VHA). They also were particularly interested in using computers and other technology for education, communication, and recreation.

PubMed Logo Weaver F, Burns S, Evans C, Rapacki L, Goldstein B, and Hammond M. Provider perspectives on soldiers with new spinal cord injuries returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation March 2009;90(3):517-21.

This study was funded through VA/HSR&D's Spinal Cord Injury Quality Enhancement Research Initiative (SCI-QUERI). All authors are part of SCI-QUERI.

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What are HSR&D Publication Briefs?

HSR&D requires notification by HSR&D-funded investigators about all articles accepted for publication. These journal articles are reviewed by HSR&D and publication briefs or summaries are written for a select number of articles that are then forwarded to VHA Central Office leadership to keep them informed about important findings or information. Articles to be summarized are selected by HSR&D based on timeliness of the findings, interest of leadership, or potential impact on the organization. Publication briefs are written for only a small number of HSR&D published articles. Visit the HSR&D citations database for a complete listing of HSR&D articles and presentations.