70% of Spinal Cord Injuries In Children Result From Motor Vehicle Accidents

Most Not Wearing Seatbelts

Feb 14, 2007


Of the nearly 1,500 spinal cord injuries (SCIs) sustained by children age 18 and younger every year, approximately 70 percent are a result of a motor vehicle accident. In 68 percent of those accidents, the child is not wearing a seatbelt. These findings – from one of the first studies to report on the incidence and causes of pediatric SCI – authored by physician-scientists at Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia University Medical Center, and published in a recent issue of the Journal of Pediatric Orthopedics.

Other common causes of pediatric SCI include accidental fall (14 percent), firearm injury (9 percent) and sports injury (7 percent). Alcohol and drugs were involved in 30 percent of all cases.

"Our findings reinforce the need to educate teenagers on the importance of taking safety precautions when operating a motor vehicle and the tragic consequences that can result from the irresponsible use of alcohol and drugs," says Dr. Michael G. Vitale, chief of the Pediatric Spine Service at Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital and the Herbert Irving Assistant Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. He is also director of the Division of Pediatric Outcomes at the International Center for Health Outcomes and Innovation Research (InCHOIR).

The study additionally found that boys are more than twice (2.79) as likely to experience SCI than girls; African-Americans are at greater risk than whites (1.53); and Hispanics and especially Asians are at lower risk than whites (0.87 and 0.36, respectively).

"The study set out to identify specific high-risk populations with the goal of improving the prevention and treatment of this traumatic injury," adds Dr. Vitale.

SCI is defined as an acute traumatic injury of the spinal cord that results in varying degrees of motor or sensory issues. Although SCIs account for only a small percentage of all injuries, severe cases may require long-term medical treatment and strenuous rehabilitation for the patient, which can impose emotional stresses on family and friends.

The study's data sources include the Kids' Inpatient Database (KID) and the National Trauma Data Bank (NTDB). The data reported represent the years 1997-2000.

The study's co-authors include Dr. David P. Roye (chief of the pediatric orthopaedic service at Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital and the Livingston Professor of Pediatric Orthopaedic Surgery at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons), Jordan M. Goss, B.A., and Hiroko Matsumoto, M.A.

For more information, patients may call 866-697-6397.

Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of NewYork-Presbyterian

Ranked by U.S.News & World Report as one of the top six children's hospitals in the country, Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of NewYork-Presbyterian offers the best available care in every area of pediatrics – including the most complex neonatal and critical care, and all areas of pediatric subspecialties – in a family-friendly and technologically advanced setting. Building a reputation for more than a century as one of the nation's premier children's hospitals, Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of NewYork-Presbyterian is affiliated with Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and is New York City's only hospital dedicated solely to the care of children and the largest provider of children's health services in the tri-state area with a long-standing commitment to its community. Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of NewYork-Presbyterian is also a major international referral center, meeting the special needs of children from infancy through adolescence worldwide.

Columbia University Medical Center

Columbia University Medical Center provides international leadership in pre-clinical and clinical research, in medical education and health sciences education, and in patient care. The medical center trains future leaders and includes the dedicated work of many physicians, scientists, nurses, dentists and public health professionals at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the College of Dental Medicine, the School of Nursing, the Mailman School of Public Health, the biomedical departments of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and allied research centers and institutions. For more information, visit www.cumc.columbia.edu.