17 Spinal Cord Injury

Health Psychology


  1. Ann Marie Warren PhD1,
  2. Meredith L. C. Williamson MS2,
  3. Norma A. Erosa MS2,
  4. Timothy R. Elliott PhD, ABPP2

Published Online: 26 SEP 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9781118133880.hop209017

Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition

Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition

How to Cite

Warren, A. M., Williamson, M. L. C., Erosa, N. A. and Elliott, T. R. 2012. Spinal Cord Injury. Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition. 9:III:17.

Author Information

  1. 1

    Baylor University Medical Center, Division of Trauma, Dallas, Texas, USA

  2. 2

    Texas A&M University, Department of Educational Psychology, College Station, Texas, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 26 SEP 2012


In this chapter, we review the major aspects of spinal cord injury (SCI) and recent research about the condition and its concomitants. SCI is a relatively low-incidence but high-cost injury, with lifetime costs estimated to be well above the $1 million mark, and costs increase dramatically as the severity of injury increases. In addition, the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC, 2010) reports life expectancies for individuals with a SCI continue to increase with advances in medical care. As individuals are living longer with SCI, the cost of ongoing care has also increased, with diminishing resources to provide care for acute medical interventions, rehabilitative care, and postdischarge management. The length of stay for inpatient rehabilitation following SCI is becoming increasingly shorter; thus more demands are placed on clinicians to provide a comprehensive rehabilitation experience in a fraction of the time. For example, the typical length of stay following an SCI in 1973 was 98 days compared to 2005, when the average length of stay was 37 days (NSCISC, 2010). With increased incidence and longevity, and decreases in the available financial support for medical rehabilitation, there is a greater need to understand the behavioral and social mechanisms that influence quality of life (QoL) following SCI. As such, we consider the psychological literature that concerns adjustment, quality of life, and service delivery in SCI rehabilitation, and we conclude with an overview of intervention strategies and issues in health and public policy that affect persons with SCI.


  • spinal cord injury;
  • rehabilitation;
  • secondary complications;
  • disability