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Epidemiological changes in traumatic spinal cord injuries for the last 30 years (1990–2019) in South Korea



Study design

Retrospective descriptive study.


To identify the characteristics of and epidemiological trends in traumatic spinal cord injuries (TSCIs) in Korea from 1990 to 2019.


National Rehabilitation Center affiliated with the Ministry of Health and Welfare in Korea.


The medical records of 3395 individuals with TSCIs were retrospectively reviewed. Three groups were formed based on onset period (1990–1999, 2000–2009, and 2010–2019) and six groups based on age (≤15, 16–30, 31–45, 46–60, 61–75, and ≥76 years). Pearson’s chi-square and analysis of variance tests were used for statistical analysis.


From 1990 to 2019, the mean age (standard deviation, [SD]) at the time of injury increased from 32.4 (SD = 12.4) years in the 1990s to 47.1 (SD = 16.2) years in the 2010s (F = 222.317 p = <0.001). Land transport and falls were the most common causes of TSCIs. The number of injuries from land transport gradually decreased, while that from falls increased (24.9% in 1990s to 46.3% in 2010s [χ2 = 134.415 p < 0.001]). In the >60 years group, falls were the most common cause of injury, which resulted in 42.9% TSCIs in the 1990s to 59.1% in the 2010s (χ2 = 10.398, p > 0.05). Tetraplegia (n = 769, 58.6%) was more common than paraplegia; incomplete tetraplegia (entire population: =564, 43%; >60 years group: n = 186, 43%) was the highest in the 2010s.


Falls have been the most common cause of TSCIs after 2010s. Implementing national education and campaigns for preventing falls is important to reduce/prevent TSCIs caused by falls in the aged population.

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Fig. 1: Flow diagram of individuals included with traumatic spinal cord injuries.
Fig. 2: Trends in the age distribution of traumatic spinal cord injury.
Fig. 3: Trends in injury etiology grouped by the year of injury.

Data availability statement

The datasets generated and analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


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International spinal cord injury survey (InSCI)—comparative analysis between the countries of the Western Pacific Region (WPR) spinal cord injury database

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Authors and Affiliations



BSL was responsible for designing the review protocol, conducting the search, screening potentially eligible studies. OYL and DHH were responsible for updating reference lists and creating tables and figures. All authors (BSL, OYL, and DHH) were responsible for writing the protocol and report, extracting and analyzing data, interpreting results, approving the final version of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Onyoo Kim.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

Statement of ethics

Approval was obtained from the Institutional Review Board of the National Rehabilitation Center for this project before conducting the research (approval number: NRC-2019-04-025). We certify that all applicable institutional and governmental regulations concerning the ethical use of human volunteers were followed during the course of this research.

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Lee, BS., Kim, O. & Ham, D. Epidemiological changes in traumatic spinal cord injuries for the last 30 years (1990–2019) in South Korea. Spinal Cord 60, 612–617 (2022).

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