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Epidemiology of spinal cord paralysis in Fiji: 1985-1994


This descriptive analytical ten year (1985-1994) retrospective study assessed the pattern of spinal cord paralysis (SCP) in the Fiji Islands utilising medical rehabilitation hospital data. Fiji Islands is an archipelago of 300 islands in the south western Pacific with a multi-ethnic population of over three quarters of a million. Rehabilitation of all SCP is provided at the Medical Rehabilitation Unit (MRU). Data was collected from medical records of new SCP (n= 140) admitted to MRU and analysed with Epi Info 5 assessing associations between cause and other variables. The incidence of new SCP admitted to the MRU was 18.7/million/year. There were 75 (53.6%) traumatic and 65 (46.4%) non-traumatic SCP. The incidence varied according to gender and ethnicity with Fijian male being at the highest (41.85) risk. Amongst traumatic SCP, 38.7% were due to falls, 25.3% motor vehicle accidents, 20% sports, 8% shallow water dive and 4% each deep sea diving and others, whereas among non-traumatic SCP, 52.3% were due to unknown causes, 32.3% infections, 9.2% neoplasms and 6.2% others. The male/female ratio was 4:1. The 16-30 year age group accounted for 35% of SCP. 31% had tetraplegia and 52.1% had complete lesions. The subset of the sample who experienced traumatic SCP were more likely to be employed, aged between 16-30 years at the time of paralysis and to have complete tetraplegia. Those who experienced incomplete paraplegia were more likely to be unemployed, aged 46-60 years and educated to primary level at the time of paralysis. There was a high proportion of complete spinal lesion when compared with other studies. The incidence of secondary complications such as pressure sores and UTI was also found to be high when compared with other studies. The results support the view that young Fijian males are most prone to sustaining traumatic spinal cord paralysis, and that there is a high incidence of secondary preventable complications. The need for preventative measures and adequate rehabilitation are emphasised.


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Maharaj, J. Epidemiology of spinal cord paralysis in Fiji: 1985-1994. Spinal Cord 34, 549–559 (1996).

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  • spinal cord injury
  • Fiji
  • epidemiology
  • aetiology
  • incidence
  • non-traumatic paraplegia

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