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Risk factors associated with in-hospital adverse events: a multicenter observational cohort study of 1853 pediatric patients with traumatic spinal cord injury

Armaan K. Malhotra, Christopher S. Lozano, Husain Shakil, Christopher W. Smith, George M. Ibrahim, David E. Lebel, Abhaya V. Kulkarni, Jefferson R. Wilson, Christopher D. Witiw, and Avery B. Nathens


In this study, the authors aimed to quantify the frequency of in-hospital major adverse events (AEs) in a multicenter cohort of pediatric patients with spinal cord injury (SCI) managed at North American trauma centers. They also sought to identify patient and injury factors associated with the occurrence of major and immobility-related AEs.


Data derived from the American College of Surgeons (ACS) Trauma Quality Improvement Program (TQIP) were used to identify a cohort of pediatric patients (age < 19 years) with traumatic SCI. The authors identified individuals with major and immobility-related AEs following injury. They used mixed-effects multivariable logistic regression to identify clinical variables associated with AEs after injury. This analytical approach allowed them to account for similarities in care delivery between patients managed in the same trauma settings during the study period while also adjusting for patient-level confounders. The adjusted impact of AEs on in-hospital mortality and length of stay (LOS) were also assessed through further multivariable regression analysis. Additional subgroup analyses were performed to reduce bias associated with competing risks and explore the age-specific risk factor associations with AEs.


A total of 1853 pediatric patients who sustained either cervical or thoracic SCI were managed at ACS TQIP trauma centers between 2017 and 2020. The most frequently encountered AE types were pressure ulcer, unplanned intubation, cardiac arrest requiring cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and ventilator-associated pneumonia. The crude rate of major in-hospital and immobility-related AEs significantly differed between subgroups, with higher proportions of AEs in complete injuries compared with incomplete injuries. The adjusted risk for major AE following injury was significantly elevated for cervical complete SCI, patients with severe concomitant abdominal injuries, and for those presenting with depressed Glasgow Coma Scale scores less than 13. These same risk factors were associated with major AEs in children older than 8 years but were not significant for younger children (age ≤ 8 years). Complication occurrence was not associated with difference in risk-adjusted mortality (OR 0.72, 95% CI 0.45–1.14), but did increase LOS by 2.2 days (95% CI 1.4–2.7 days).


The authors outlined the prevalence of in-hospital AEs in a large multicenter cohort of North American pediatric SCI patients. Important risk factors predisposing this population to AEs include cervical complete injuries, simultaneous abdominal trauma, and Glasgow Coma Scale scores < 13 at presentation. Postinjury complications impacted health resource utilization by increased LOS but did not affect postinjury mortality. These findings have important implications for pediatric SCI providers and future care quality benchmarking.

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Armaan K. Malhotra and Jefferson R. Wilson