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10 October 2011

The biannual meeting of the Nordic Spinal Cord Society took place in Gothenburg, Sweden from 28 – 30 September 2011.

ESCIF made two major contributions to the conference: the first was a presentation from the ESCIF SCI research working group; the second was a “hearing” on the need for centralisation of SCI treatment, rehabilitation and life-long care.


Corinne Jeanmaire made a presentation of the work of the SCI research working group. Since the ESCIF Congress in Lobbach two years ago, the group has worked to set up a section of the ESCIF website that offers: information and guidelines on “unproven therapies” for SCI “cure”; information on ongoing (and upcoming) clinical trials that focus upon functional recovery following SCI.

The work of updating this information is extremely time-consuming. The SCI research group would, therefore, be very grateful to receive relevant information from ESCIF members and collaborators.

During the presentation, Corinne made a call for more attention to and funding for research into regeneration, and for clinical trials aimed at improving functionality.(See the presentation here)


The final afternoon of the conference was dedicated to a hearing concerning the need for centralisation of SCI treatment, rehabilitation and life-long care. ESCIF had been asked to prepare and lead this session.

The hearing was planned as a panel debate with the opportunity for the audience to ask questions and comment on the various contributions. Jane Horsewell acted as session chairman.

Gunilla Åhrén was the first member of the panel to make a presentation. Gunilla presented the ESCIF report on centralisation (See the presentation here). Antti Dahlberg from the SCI organisation Akson Ry, Finland, used the recent developments in Finland as a case-study. In Finland, new legislation has promoted a move towards the centralisation of SCI treatment and care – but is confined to traumatic SCI. Akson used the ESCIF material to support its case.

Axel Brattberg and Lena Ahnlund, specialists in Neurology and Rehabilitation medicine who both work with SCI patients in and around the area of Uppsala in Sweden, described how it is to work in a decentralised system of SCI treatment, rehabilitation and care. Some of the SCI units in the region are CARF accredited for SCI.


Finally, Fin Biering-Sørensen, Professor at Copenhagen University, Head of the Clinic for Spinal Cord Injuries at the University Hospital Copenhagen and President of ISCoS, was asked whether the issue of centralisation was an “unwritten” policy of ISCoS. He answered that in countries where centralisation was a possibility, then, of course, ISCoS would recommend this. In countries with little or no dedicated SCI care, then any specialised care is better than nothing.

Throughout the conference constant references were made to the issue of centralisation and it became obvious that ESCIF was largely “preaching to the converted” i.e. the audience already supported centralisation. The question then remains – why has the situation in Sweden gone “from bad to worse” as Gunilla claimed in her presentation at De Rijp earlier this year (a statement supported by others at NoSCoS)? Why have recommendations put forward over twenty years ago not been implemented? The conference was held in Gothenburg, home of the first dedicated SCI unit in Sweden; a unit that has been over the years cut back to a total of 8 beds and which was very recently threatened with more cut backs. The answer may, of course, be a question of politics and budgets. Fin Biering-Sørensen suggested, however, that the responsibility lies with the university hospitals themselves and their inability to agree upon where the SCI centres should be located. Whatever the case, the debate on centralisation in Sweden seems likely to continue.





ESCIF at NoSCoS 2011 was posted by ESCIF.
To discuss any of its subject matter further please contact ESCIF.

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