Capturing impact of traumatic brain injury when this co-occurs with traumatic spinal cord injury


Research Framework

Engaging Rehabilitation


Traumatic brain injury (TBI) often co-occurs with traumatic spinal cord injury (tSCI) and can have a significant impact on rehabilitation.  In New Zealand rates of co-occurring SCI and TBI are unknown. The New Zealand Spinal Cord Injury register (NZSCIR) provides an opportunity to identify what information is captured nationally about the incidence of co-occurring TBI and SCI. In our programme of research we aim to improve the way TBI is captured and to then evaluate the ways in which TBI can affect SCI rehabilitation outcomes.

The first part of our research (the current study) explores to what extent there is a difference between what is captured by NZSCIR in relation to rates of TBI and what might be ascertained from clinical case notes during acute SCI rehabilitation. We will use this information to develop a systematic process or algorithm for identifying TBI that can be used by NZSCIR to improve accuracy of data collection.


This study will be carried out at the Burwood Spinal Unit,(BSU) Christchurch and involves a comprehensive prospective clinical notes audit.

Status of Research

Data Collection – Completed

Analysis Underway


This study has been funded by an activation grant from the Health Research Council of NZ (ref 20/1228). Key outputs of the study will include an algorithm for accurate capture of TBI and relationships with stakeholders such as Māori and Pacific communities, the NZSCIR, the Burwood and Auckland Spinal Rehabilitation Units, and persons with SCI and TBI. Establishing these relationships will enable us to co-design methods for a larger study to better understand impacts of TBI when this co-occurs with SCI.

Key Contact

Dr Deborah Snell, (Principal Investigator)
Research Associate Professor-
University of Otago.

Dr Jo Nunnerley,
Academy Director,
Burwood Academy
Phone:  +64 3 383 6871
Mobile: +64 21 187 2651

Julianne Johns,
Research Assistant & Communications,
Burwood Academy
Phone:  +64 3 383 6871

Researchers and Collaborators

Dr. Jennifer Dunn, 
University Of Otago Christchurch.
Phone:  +64 3 383 6871

Mr. Raj Singhal, 
Clinical Director,
Burwood Spinal Unit.