Spinal Cord Injury: How Can We Improve the Classification and Quantification of Its Severity and Prognosis?
Journal of Neurotrauma
The preservation of functional neural tissue after spinal cord injury (SCI) is the basis for spontaneous neurological recovery. Some injured patients in the acute phase have more potential for recovery than others. This fact is problematic for the construction of clinical trials because enrollment of subjects with variable recovery potential makes it difficult to detect effects, requires large sample sizes, and risks Type II errors. In addition, the current methods to assess injury and recovery
... are non-quantitative and not sensitive. It is likely that therapeutic combinations will be necessary to cause substantially improved function after SCI, thus we need highly sensitive techniques to evaluate changes in motor, sensory, autonomic and other functions. We review several emerging neurophysiological techniques with high sensitivity. Quantitative methods to evaluate residual tissue sparing after severe acute SCI have not entered widespread clinical use. This reduces the ability to correlate structural preservation with clinical outcome following SCI resulting in enrollment of subjects with varying patterns of tissue preservation and injury into clinical trials. We propose that the inclusion of additional measures of injury severity, pattern, and individual genetic characteristics may enable stratification in clinical trials to make the testing of therapeutic interventions more effective and efficient. New imaging techniques to assess tract injury and demyelination and methods to quantify tissue injury, inflammatory markers, and neuroglial biochemical changes may improve the evaluation of injury severity, and the correlation with neurological outcome, and measure the effects of treatment more robustly than is currently possible. The ability to test such a multimodality approach will require a high degree of collaboration between clinical and research centers and government research support. When the most informative of these assessments is determined, it may be possible to identify patients with substantial recovery potential, improve selection criteria and conduct more efficient clinical trials.