Who is treated in the Spinal Cord Injury Program?

The inpatient program at Kennedy Krieger Institute treats children and adolescents up to and including age 21. During fiscal year 2018*, 43 children and adolescents with spinal cord injury/dysfunction were treated in the inpatient Spinal Cord Injury Program.  The ages ranged from birth to 21 years of age.  Most patients were between the ages of 5 and 13 years of age. 

Below is the age breakdown of those patients:


Diagnoses Treated

The Spinal Cord Injury Program treats children and adolescents who, collectively, have a variety of diagnoses.

Below is a breakdown of the most common diagnoses treated by the Spinal Cord Injury Program:


Types of Patients Treated

The patients who come to the Spinal Cord Injury program have functional challenges related to their spinal cord injury.  These challenges may include performing daily self-care activities, limitations in mobility, bowel and bladder dysfunction or difficulty breathing.

  • Patients must be medically stable and able to participate in at least three hours of therapy per day
  • Children with tracheostomies and those requiring mechanical ventilation or diaphragm pacing systems are welcome on the inpatient unit

Interdisciplinary Treatment Team

Because patients with spinal cord injury may have complex needs, an experienced interdisciplinary treatment team works with every patient and his or her family.  This team may include:

  • Aquatic therapists
  • Assistive technology professionals
  • Behavioral psychologists
  • Developmental pediatricians
  • Hospitalists
  • Neurologists
  • Nurse care managers
  • Nurse practitioners
  • Nurse technicians
  • Nutritionists/Registered Dietitians
  • Occupational therapist assistants
  • Occupational therapists
  • Orthopedists
  • Pharmacists
  • Physiatrists
  • Physical therapists
  • Physical therapy assistants
  • Psychologists
  • Recreational therapists
  • Registered nurses
  • Seating and mobility specialists
  • Social workers
  • Special educators
  • Speech-language pathologists

Where do patients live who are seen in the Spinal Cord Injury program?

Patients come from all 50 states and more than 40 countries.

How much therapy do patients being treated in the Spinal Cord Program receive?

Patients in the inpatient Spinal Cord Injury program have at least four hours of therapy Monday through Friday. On Saturdays, patients typically receive two hours of therapy.

What happens if a patient gets sick or has a medical emergency while at Kennedy Krieger?

Kennedy Krieger has Advanced Life Support-certified medical staff members on-site 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with the equipment and processes in place to respond to medical emergencies. Occasionally, more intensive medical needs require unplanned transfers to acute care for specialized treatment. Because of our proximity to, and affiliation with, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, we admit many patients with intensive medical needs, such as those requiring a ventilator for breathing.

In fiscal year 2018*, 19 percent of spinal cord patients required a brief unplanned transfer to a higher level of care and returned to the program for continued treatment.

How are patients and their families involved in the care that is received from the Spinal Cord Injury Program?

No one knows a patient better than his or her family.  Therefore, Kennedy Krieger providers are committed to incorporating family-centered care. The best way to care for a patient is to include his or her family in the patient’s healthcare team. Family members are encouraged to participate in treatment planning, goal setting, family meetings, and education and training sessions.

How long do most patients receive treatment from the Spinal Cord Injury Program?

Treatment varies from one patient to another, based on their needs and goals. In fiscal year 2018*, the average length of stay for all children with spinal cord injury was 37 days.  Children with acute spinal cord injury, especially those requiring mechanical ventilation, may be treated as long as 60 to 90 days, if needed.

These lengths of stays are similar to the length of stays at other pediatric rehabilitation hospitals nationwide. 

What kinds of improvements might patients be expected to make while receiving treatment from the Spinal Cord Injury Program?

Kennedy Krieger Institute uses WeeFIM for standardized pediatric outcomes measurement. This system is used by pediatric inpatient, outpatient, and community-based rehab programs and provides a simple, consistent, uniform tool that measures function in children.

Patients made improvements in their self-care skills and mobility skills that were similar or exceeded improvements made at other pediatric rehabilitation hospitals nationwide.

Below is data for fiscal years 17 and 18:


In fiscal year 2018*:

  • 93 percent of patients reached their rehabilitation goals during their inpatient stay
  • 100 percent of patients with spinal cord injury are discharged home at the end of their rehabilitation stay

Inpatient rehabilitation is the start of an ongoing lifelong program of restoration and rehabilitation focused on improving function, maintaining health and preventing known complications of spinal cord injury.   At discharge, patients receive a written home and community rehabilitation program that can be shared with local therapists who may not be as familiar with spinal cord injury rehabilitation.  This allows patients to continue to reach ongoing rehabilitation goals. 

What do patients and their families say about their experience with Kennedy Krieger Institute?

  • 97 percent of parents say they would recommend Kennedy Krieger Institute to others
  • 97% percent parents say they were satisfied with the services we provided
  • 98 percent of parents felt satisfied by the involvement they had in their child’s plan of care
  • 98 percent of parents said that they were made to feel like a partner in their child’s care
  • 97 percent of parents were satisfied with the pain management of their child
  • 96 percent of patients said that they felt that the rehab team helped them
  • Three months after discharge, 96 percent of children were back in a formal school program
  • Three months after discharge, 96 percent of parents would recommend Kennedy Krieger Institute to others needing rehabilitation
  • One year after discharge, 98 percent parents stated they were satisfied with their child’s care at Kennedy Krieger Institute

Does Kennedy Krieger have special accreditation?

Kennedy Krieger Institute is accredited by the Commission on the Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) and The Joint Commission. Every three years, both organizations review the Institute to ensure all its programs meet or exceed the very high standards it sets for the care of its patients.

*Fiscal year 2018 is the time frame from July 1, 2017 – June 30, 2018.