Spinal Cord Injuries

Student looking down at an experiment.

Making sure the best research on treating spinal cord injury gets translated into the way doctors actually treat patients.

“It’s as important to address the work in implementation as it is to develop the knowledge in the first place, because if you don’t get it implemented…people aren’t going to benefit from it.” – Bill Barrable, CEO, Rick Hansen Institute

Every year, about 4,300 Canadians suffer spinal cord injuries, with results ranging from paraplegia to complete paralysis. The faster those patients receive surgery to remove pressure from their spinal cords, the more likely doctors can reduce the extent of their paralysis.

Despite research support for the benefits of early surgery for specific types of injuries, it can take days, not hours, for people to undergo operations, depending where in Canada they are injured. The Rick Hansen Institute wants to make sure the best evidence-based research on treating and preventing spinal cord injury and accompanying secondary complications gets translated into the way doctors and hospitals actually treat patients. That’s why the Institute supports a post-doctoral fellowship in knowledge translation at the University of Ottawa.

“Ultimately, we want to eliminate paralysis after spinal cord injury, so this is one step in the journey to do that,” says Bill Barrable, the Institute’s chief executive officer. The fellowship will enable the recipient to build on the work of Dr. Jeremy Grimshaw, a clinical epidemiologist and leading knowledge translation expert at the Institute. Grimshaw and his multidisciplinary colleagues have already overcome knowledge translation barriers to help nurses in Australia reduce the disability and number of deaths that occur in the first three months after patients suffer a stroke. Now he wants to turn the team’s lens to the barriers surrounding spinal cord injury.

The partnership between the University of Ottawa and the Rick Hansen Institute is designed to address the most critical issues affecting people with spinal cord injuries, including treating secondary complications such as pressure sores, pain and urinary tract infections, which are often life-long issues. “If we can do something that will improve the quality of life for 20, 30, 40 percent of people living with spinal cord injuries in the community, that for me would be a huge win,” says Grimshaw.

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