This 17th report in the Spinal cord injury, Australia series presents national statistics on spinal cord injury (SCI) using data from case registrations to the Australian Spinal Cord Injury Register for 2015–16.

There were 253 newly incident cases of traumatic SCI due to external causes reported for 2015–16. Of these cases, 241 resulted in persisting injury; 8 died; 3 had no long-term neurological injury; and 1 case was still to be discharged. All those who died were aged over 65, and the time between injury and death ranged between 3 days and 233 days. Neurological level of injury was assessed in 6 cases prior to their deaths and all were at C6 or higher (the highest region being cervical spine segments C1–C8).

The age-standardised rate of persisting traumatic SCI was estimated to be 12.1 cases per million population aged 15 and older. The age-specific rate was highest for ages 65–74 (20.0 cases), followed by 15.9 cases for ages 75 or older. Consistent with most years, the incidence rates of persisting traumatic SCI for males were higher across all age groups than those for females.

The median duration of initial care was longest for the most severe type of persisting traumatic SCI on admission—Complete tetraplegia. Complete tetraplegia is a neurological injury to the cervical spine, with no motor or sensory function preserved at the lowest sacral segments S4–S5. Half of these Complete tetraplegia cases spent 212 days (approximately 7 months) or longer in hospital, from the time of injury to being discharged home from a specialist spinal unit.