New approach to study the contents and outcomes of spinal cord injury rehabilitation: the SCIRehab Project.

The journal of spinal cord medicine

PubMedID: 19810627

Whiteneck G, Gassaway J, Dijkers M, Jha A. New approach to study the contents and outcomes of spinal cord injury rehabilitation: the SCIRehab Project. J Spinal Cord Med. 2009;32(3):251-9.
BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVE
Limited research evidence is available to show the effectiveness of the many specific interventions provided in spinal cord injury (SCI) rehabilitation; what is available typically focuses on effects of the full rehabilitation package but not specific therapy interventions, medical procedures, patient education, or counseling. Given the problems of conducting randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in rehabilitation, practice-based evidence (PBE) research has been suggested as an alternative methodology for identifying which rehabilitation interventions are associated most strongly with positive outcomes, after controlling for patient differences. Using the PBE research methodology, the SCIRehab project attempts to "open the black box" of acute SCI rehabilitation, provide detailed information on treatments delivered by all rehabilitation disciplines, and contribute to outcomes-based guidelines for clinical decision-making.

METHODS
The SCIRehab project includes 1,500 patients with acute SCI, consecutively admitted to 1 of 6 US inpatient rehabilitation facilities. Details of the rehabilitation process are captured by clinicians from multiple disciplines documenting their interventions in handheld personal digital assistants after sessions with their patients. Outcome data are abstracted from medical records (clinical outcomes data) and obtained from patient interviews at 6 and 12 months after injury. Extensive patient, injury, and other treatment characteristics are abstracted from medical records. SCIRehab is the first research project to collect detailed information on individual interventions offered by the full rehabilitation team.

RESULTS
SCIRehab is the first research project to collect detailed information on individual interventions offered by the full rehabilitation team. These findings are presented in a series of 9 articles.

CONCLUSIONS
To date, SCIRehab's major contribution is a system for categorizing specific contributions of each discipline and a technology for documenting that detail. After data collection is complete, future manuscripts will relate those process elements to outcomes. The SCIRehab Project is an important step toward establishing outcomes-based guidelines for SCI rehabilitation.