Our study aim was to assess the neurological outcomes of surgical decompression and stabilization within 5 and 24 h after injury. We performed a multi-center, retrospective cohort study in adolescents and adults 15-85 years of age presenting cervical spinal cord injury (CSCI) at one of 6 Austrian trauma centers participating in the Austrian Spinal Cord Injury Study (ASCIS). Neurological outcomes were measured using the American Spinal Injury Association Impairment Scale (AIS) grade according to the International Standards For Neurological Classification Of Spinal Cord Injury (ISNCSCI) form after at least 6 months of follow-up (FU). Of the 49 enrolled patients with acute CSCI, 33 underwent surgical decompression within 5 h (mean 3.2 h ± 1.1 h; very early group) after injury, and 16 underwent surgical decompression between 5 and 24 h (mean 8.6 h ± 5.5 h; early group). Significant neurological improvement was observed among the entire study population between the preoperative assessment and the FU. We identified a significant difference in the AIS grade at the last FU between the groups the using Jonckheere-Terpstra test for doubly ordered crosstabs (p = 0.011) and significantly different AIS improvement rates in the early group (Poisson model, p = 0.018). Improvement by one AIS grade was observed in 31% and 42% of the patients in the early and very early groups, respectively (p = 0.54). Improvement by two AIS grades was observed in 31% and 6% of the patients in the early and very early groups, respectively (p = 0.03; relative risk [RR], 5.2; 95% CI, 1.1-35). Improvement by three AIS grades was observed in 6% and 3% of patients in the early and very early groups, respectively (p = 1.0). Decompression of the spinal cord within 24 h after SCI was associated with an improved neurological outcome. No additional neurological benefit was observed in patients who underwent decompression within 5 h of injury.
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