Individuals with a spinal cord injury (SCI) in socioeconomically disadvantaged settings (e.g., rural or low income) have different outcomes than their counterparts; however, a contemporary literature review identifying and measuring these outcomes has not been published. Here, the authors’ aim was to perform a systematic review and identify these parameters in the hope of providing tangible targets for future clinical research efforts.
A systematic review was performed to find English-language articles published from 2007 to 2017 in the PubMed/MEDLINE, EMBASE, and SCOPUS databases. Studies evaluating any outcomes related to patients with an SCI and in a low-resource setting were included. The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines were followed, and a flowchart was created. Of the 403 articles found, 31 underwent complete review and 26 were eligible for study inclusion. According to the current study criteria, any case studies, studies in less developed countries, studies including and not separating other types of neurological disorders, studies not assessing the effects of a low-resource setting on outcomes in patients with SCI, and studies evaluating the causes of SCI in a low-resource setting were excluded.
In SCI patients, a lower income was a predictor of death (OR 2.1, 95% CI 1.7–2.6, p = 0.0002). Moreover, secondary outcomes such as pain intensities (OR 3.32, 95% CI 2.21–4.49, p < 0.001), emergency room visits (11% more likely, p = 0.006), and pressure ulcer formation (OR 2.1, 95% CI 1.5–3.0, p < 0.001) were significantly higher in the lower income brackets. Rurality was also a factor and was significantly associated with increased emergency room visits (OR 1.5, 95% CI 1.1–2.1, p = 0.01) and lower outpatient service utilization (incidence rate ratio [IRR] 0.57, 95% CI 0.35–0.93, p < 0.05).
The authors showed that individuals in a low-resource setting who have suffered an SCI have significantly different outcomes than their counterparts. These specific outcomes are promising targets for future research efforts that focus on improving health conditions among this population.