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American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation:
doi: 10.1097/PHM.0b013e3182489f5e
2011 AAP Presidential Address

Medical Rehabilitation of People with Spinal Cord Injury During 40 Years of Academic Physiatric Practice

Ragnarsson, Kristjan T. MD

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Abstract

ABSTRACT: There are many different paths that lead to an academic physiatric career and a lifelong interest in spinal cord injury (SCI) medicine. It is unfortunate that after decades of cellular-based research in multiple laboratories, there are still no interventions available that can reverse the neurologic loss that follows SCI. In contrast, medical rehabilitation research during the last 40 yrs has led to remarkable improvements in the lives of persons with SCI as evident in their increased life expectancy, shorter hospitalizations, fewer rehospitalizations, and more effective treatments for male sexual dysfunction and fertility, as well as spasticity, heterotrophic ossification, and neuropathic pain. Application of modern technology has improved the mobility of persons with SCI with better designed wheelchairs, decreased their dependency on others, facilitated their access to information, made communication and community integration easier, and so on. Although deaths related to urinary tract complications are now rare, better methods of managing the neurogenic bladder are still needed. Furthermore, better management methods are also needed for the neurogenic bowel, SCI pain, and osteoporosis of the paralyzed limbs. Even with proper prophylaxis, deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism are still common, and clinicians have paid too little attention to reducing the risk for persons with SCI of developing obesity, diabetes mellitus, and cardiovascular disease. These challenges need to be met by medical rehabilitation research, by advocating for insurance policies that support the healthcare needs of persons with SCI, and by developing comprehensive disability policies, all with the support and leadership of academic physiatrists.

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.

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