Early rapid neurological assessment for acute spinal cord injury trials

Camila R. Battistuzzo, Karen Smith, Peta Skeers, Alex Armstrong, Jillian Clark, Jacqui Agostinello, Shelley Cox, Stephen Bernard, Brian J C Freeman, Sarah A. Dunlop, Peter E. Batchelor

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8 Citations (Scopus)


Clinical trials evaluating early therapies after spinal cord injury (SCI) are challenging because of the absence of a rapid assessment. The aim of this study was to determine whether the severity and level of SCI could be established from a brief neurological assessment capable of being used in an emergency setting. A brief assessment called the SPinal Emergency Evaluation of Deficits (SPEED) was developed and retrospectively evaluated in a cohort of 118 patients with SCI. Foot motor and sensory function was used to indicate injury severity. C3 dermatome sensation, handgrip strength and location of spinal pain were used to indicate the level of injury. With regard to injury severity, a high proportion of patients (94%) with no foot movement at the time of injury were initially diagnosed as motor complete (American Spinal Injury Association Impairment Scale [AIS] grade A-B), whereas all patients with foot movement were identified as motor incomplete (AIS grade C-D). This was reflected by a good correlation (rs = 0.79) and agreement (j = 0.85) between theSPEED motor score and the acute hospital assessment. With respect to injury level, the majority of cases with cervical SCI (92%) had no or weak handgrip at the time of paramedic assessment, whereas all cases with thoracolumbar SCI had a strong handgrip. The location of spinal pain was also in accordance with the level of spinal injury. The SPEED assessment appears capable of accurately determining the severity and level of cervical SCI in the first hours post-injury. A neurological assessment that can be performed rapidly after injury is important for clinical trials of early therapy and to identify patients most likely to benefit from intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1936-1945
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neurotrauma
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2016


  • Injury severity
  • Level of injury
  • Rapid neurological assessment
  • SCI

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