Kolling researchers to inform best care for those with a spinal cord injury

The expertise of our rehabilitation researchers at the Kolling Institute has been recognised with a prestigious international competitive grant to investigate the impact length of stay has on rehabilitation outcomes following a spinal cord injury.

The National Institute of Health in the US has awarded more than $9 million to the overall project, with more than $750,000 coming to Australia.

The five-year research project will investigate the impact of length of stay for rehabilitation programs in different countries including the USA, UK, Netherlands, Australia, Brazil and Canada.

It will assess international approaches to the management of these challenging injuries and associated rehabilitation programs.

Professor Ashley Craig from the John Walsh Centre for Rehabilitation Research has been appointed the chief investigator lead in Australia, with support from colleagues Dr Ilaria Pozzato, Dr Mohit Arora and Professor James Middleton.

Australian researchers will assist the chief lead in the USA Dr Allen Heinemann, Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Emergency Medicine and Medical Social Sciences at Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago.

Professor Craig has welcomed this prestigious grant delivered through the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research scheme.

“This is a very significant international collaborative grant win and I believe the first National Institute of Heath grant won by the John Walsh Centre for Rehabilitation Research," he said.

“It is wonderful to be working with colleagues in Australia and internationally to progress our research to determine the best care for those with a spinal cord injury, and to ensure that everyone who experiences this type of injury, can access the very latest evidenced-based care and support.”

Spinal cord injuries often have a catastrophic impact, affecting multiple bodily systems and functions. In addition to sensory and motor loss, there is a high chance of secondary conditions including chronic pain, diabetes, cardiovascular and respiratory problems, as well as cognitive impairment and mental health challenges.

Spinal cord injuries can also lead to reduced social autonomy, difficulties gaining and sustaining employment, weight gain and sleep disturbance.

Professor Craig said given these complications, it’s crucial patients have access to an evidenced-based, multidisciplinary intensive rehabilitation program.

“We know that currently there’s a big difference in the length of time patients spend in rehabilitation programs in NSW and around the world,” he said.

“COVID has also negatively impacted the length of stay in rehabilitation.

“There is an urgent need to investigate the impact that a short length of stay, say three of four weeks has compared with a longer stay, of up to 12 weeks.

“We are pleased to be part of this large-scale, international project to determine the optimum length of stay, and deliver the best long-term health outcomes.”