Andrea PellegriniFrancesco PegreffiPaolo PaladiniMichele Arcangelo VerdanoFrancesco CeccarelliGiuseppe Porcellini

Acta Biomed. 2012 Dec;83(3):177-82.


Introduction: The annual incidence of acute spinal cord injury, as reported in the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, was estimated to be approximately 40 cases per million, or approximately 11.000 new cases in the United States each year (1). In subjects with spinal cord injury, overstress of the upper extremities occurs not only during daily life activities, but also utilizing wheelchair. The aim of this study is to determine the prevalence of shoulder discomfort in subjects affected by paraplegia living in our country area and evaluate the associated risk factors negatively affecting the shoulder function.

Material and method: A computerized database search for paraplegic patients was performed at the Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Trauma Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine. Among the 54 selected paraplegic patients, 47 accepted to participate at the study. Once the patients were contacted, the medical records were reviewed to obtain information regarding shoulder, elbow and spine region pain and discomfort.

Results: The 60% of all the patients who answered to the questionnaire complain shoulder pain, 90% bilaterally, and the 30% referred elbow pain, 20% bilaterally. 77% complains back pain, involving particularly lumbar region. Only 2% of this population undergoes a shoulder surgery treatment for cuff tear and shoulder disability.

Discussion and conclusion: The present study is the first in our country that gives an overview of prevalence of upper limb discomfort in paraplegic patients. We have shown the interplay between shoulder elbow and spine with pain, age of patients and type of wheel chair utilized. The previous factors can be corrected and upper limb discomfort relieved.

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