Respiratory complications are a major cause of illness and death in persons with spinal cord injuries and dysfunction (SCI&Ds). The objectives of this study were to examine rates of outpatient visits over 5 years for acute respiratory tract infections (ARIs), including pneumonia and influenza (P&I), lower respiratory tract infections (LRIs), and upper respiratory tract infections (URIs), in veterans with SCI&Ds and to determine whether individual characteristics were associated with the number of annual visits for each type of ARI. This was a longitudinal (fiscal years 1998-2002) study of ARI visits at the Veterans Health Administration (VA) in 18,693 veterans with SCI&Ds. To examine the associations between time, patient characteristics, and annual number of ARI visits, we used random effect negative binomial models. Veterans with SCI&Ds had a total of 11,113 ARI visits over the 5-year period. There was a slightly decreasing trend for LRI visits over time (P < 0.01) but no significant change for other ARIs over time. There were 30 to 35 pneumonia visits and 21 to 30 acute bronchitis visits per 1,000 SCI&D veterans per year. Older veterans were more likely than younger to have P&I visits and less likely to have URI visits (P < 0.01). Veterans with paraplegia had fewer P&I visits than subjects with tetraplegia (IRR = 0.58; Cl = 0.51-0.67). Visit rates for ARIs are stable for veterans with SCI&Ds. Identifying risk factors associated with ARI visits is an important first step to improve prevention and treatment of ARIs and to improve the health of veterans with SCI&Ds.

DOI 10.1080/10790268.2007.11753951