Inpatient Programs

Pioneering Rehabilitation

Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Program


Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Program Description

The mission of Burke Rehabilitation Hospital's Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) / Neurological Rehabilitation Program is to provide the most comprehensive, patient centered and effective rehabilitation to maximize recovery from physical, cognitive and psychological impairments caused by traumatic and acquired spinal cord dysfunction. Led by Dr. Vincent Huang, the interdisciplinary team works collaboratively with the individual with the spinal cord injury and the family and/or caregiver to facilitate achievement of the best possible physical and mental recovery. Intensive rehabilitation is provided in a safe, secure and structured environment to allow the individual to reach his/her full potential and return to an active, productive lifestyle.

The rehabilitation team consists of the individual with the spinal cord/neurological injury, his or her family and/or caregivers, and medical, nursing and other rehabilitation personnel who, by virtue of their education and experience, are qualified to work with this patient population. The medical and rehabilitation professionals on the team are responsible for assessing the spinal cord injured individual’s medical, behavioral and rehabilitation needs, establishing individualized goals in consultation with the individual and/or family/caregiver, designing and implementing a treatment program, assessing its outcome, communicating with the team and preparing the individual and family for the next phase in the spinal cord injury rehabilitation process.  


Scope of Services
Burke’s Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) / Neurological Rehabilitation Program:

  • Maximizes recovery from the physical, cognitive, and psychological impairments caused by spinal cord injury
  • Providing the highest quality, patient focused rehabilitation
  • Provides rehabilitation through an interdisciplinary approach that emphasizes communication, collaboration and cooperation
  • Focuses on the individual’s capabilities and use of compensatory strategies and devices to lessen activity limitations
  • Removes or lessens restrictions to participation in life roles and situations to the extent possible, and counsels and educates individuals and families on alternative possibilities for life participation when necessary
  • Prepares the individual with a spinal cord injury, family and/or caregiver to make the transition to the next stage of the rehabilitative process.

Burke’s intensive and comprehensive program focuses on maximizing each person’s ability to function, through personalized care and individually designed therapy programs. Preventing complications, improving self confidence, and optimizing adaptation and education, helps patients achieve the highest level of independence possible.

Cultural and religious needs are respected for each patient by the entire team. Accommodations to the patient’s schedule, dietary needs and requests, and the provision of appropriate equipment are provided to enhance the patient’s experience and support full participation in the rehabilitation program. All staff members participate in annual cultural diversity and sensitivity training.

Within the scope of the Spinal Cord Injury/Neurological Rehabilitation Program, patient evaluation and care planning are designed around traditional medical disablement models. These models assess three levels of dysfunction which stem from the patient’s admitting diagnosis (pathology).

Impairments:  Weakening, damage, or deterioration of function within a specific component of the musculoskeletal system, especially as a result of injury or disease.

Examples: Decreases in strength, active range of motion, passive range of motion, cognition, balance, and/or activity tolerance along with increases in pain and/or edema.                                                                                  

Activity Limitations:  The inability to perform a specific task as a consequence of the aforementioned impairments. 

Examples: Difficulty with ambulation, stair negotiation, dressing, grooming or self-care

Participation Restrictions: The cumulative effect of impairments and activity limitations on the ability of a person to participate in life roles. 

Examples: Inability to perform duties as a parent, caregiver, employee or participant in social and leisure activities.

Diagnoses of patients served include traumatic spinal cord injury, aneurysm dissection with spinal cord infarction, transverse myelitis of any etiology, spinal tumors, etc. Beginning on the day of admission and continuing throughout the individual’s stay, the spinal cord injury team works collaboratively to identify and address the needs of each patient. The interdisciplinary assessment is conducted by the medical and rehabilitation professionals on the individual’s team, including the physician, nurse, social worker/case manager, clinical neuropsychologist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, speech-language therapist, recreation therapist and dietician. Other professionals, such as the orthotist, become part of the team as warranted. These professionals share the information obtained from the assessment via verbal communication and chart documentation so that each team member can understand the individual’s strengths, impairments, and limitations to activity, restrictions in participation, and the environmental and personal contextual factors that may influence treatment outcomes and plans for discharge.

Based on the results of the assessment, goals are determined with the individual and/or family/caregiver(s) and a treatment plan is implemented. The goal of the intensive rehabilitation program at Burke is to help each patient return to as active and productive a life as possible despite physical disability. Team consultation and collaboration occur throughout the treatment program. The individual’s progress is discussed formally once per week at a team meeting. Family members and/or caregiver(s) are encouraged to attend and participate in treatment sessions and patient care as appropriate. A series of educational lectures and discussions for families and other caregivers on various topics related to spinal cord injury is conducted by team members throughout the week.

Within a safe, secure and structured environment, each individual receives intensive therapy five to six times a week for a minimum of three hours. Rehabilitation nursing and access to a physician are available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

Admission Criteria
Every potential patient who may benefit from our care is discussed with the screening staff, physician, and/or program director. The rehabilitation potential for every patient is evaluated prior to admission. 

Screening Process
Referrals to Burke are usually made by physicians, social workers, discharge planners or case managers. A reasonable medical and functional profile must be provided and appropriate sections of the medical record from the acute care process are included. A rehabilitation nurse may also perform a detailed evaluation at the referring institution. Recommendations are then made to the appropriate member of the medical staff who renders a final decision with regard to admission.

Diagnoses for admission include, but are not limited to: traumatic spinal cord injury, aneurysm dissection with spinal cord infarction, transverse myelitis of any etiology, spinal tumors, as well as disease of the peripheral nervous system.

Additionally, the following is a brief, but not inclusive, list of admission criteria:

  • Prior to admission, the patient was independent in ambulation and activities of daily living
  • The onset of spinal cord injury is within four weeks. Admission to Burke to commence once the patient is medically stable and can begin an aggressive therapy regimen. Patients should be transferred from the acute care neurotrauma services of regional or area hospitals as soon as ICU support is not longer needed, and he/she is not at risk for transport.
  • The patient is not in danger to him/herself or other patients on the unit
  • Patients with pulmonary complication and other neurological illness are accepted if viable candidate
  • Any patient with tetraplegia will be admitted except those who require continuous respiratory support or custodial care
  • Patients with paraplegia are admitted
  • There is clinical documentation of spinal stability and/or the use of halo traction or esthetics, to enable the patient to participate in an aggressive therapy program
  • If any one or combination of criteria is not met, the patient may still be considered for admission to Burke, but the program physician must review the screen

Discharge Criteria
Patients are discharged from the inpatient rehabilitation program when any of the following occur:

  • The patient has achieved maximal levels of functional improvement, or has gained the ability to direct his or her own care
  • The patient shows no functional improvement despite alteration of treatment techniques
  • The patient is discharged to an acute care hospital for medical reasons
  • The patient is unable to participate in treatment due to medical, psychological, or cognitive reasons

The discharge planning process begins when the patient is first admitted to the program. The social worker/case manager leads the planning process, coordinating information from all members of the interdisciplinary team. Based on the individual’s functional status, family support, pre-morbid living situation and level of function and available health insurance, the team makes recommendations for the most appropriate and suitable discharge plan for the patient. At the team or family’s request, a formal meeting with the team and patient/family is scheduled to discuss appropriate options. A safe discharge is a primary consideration when options are considered. 

Recommendations for discharge may include:

  • Home with home care services
  • Home with outpatient services
  • Sub acute rehabilitation services
  • Long term care services

Team Description
The philosophy of the Spinal Cord Injury Program is that the program’s mission can best be accomplished by providing rehabilitative care through an interdisciplinary team approach.

The team consists of the following:

Additional services available to meet the needs of each individual patient include:

  • Medical consultations (Podiatry, Urology, Plastics, ENT, Dermatology, etc.)
  • Pastoral care
  • Orthotic services
  • Pharmacy
  • Radiology
  • Laboratory services
  • Complimentary therapy
  • Peer support

Examples of technology used: 

  • RTI FES Bike
  • Bioness H200 and L300+
  • WalkAide
  • LiteGait
  • Saebo
  • Zero G Lite

From admission through the discharge planning process, team members work collaboratively with each other, the individual with the spinal cord injury or neurological condition and the family and/or caregiver(s) to ensure that the specific needs of each individual are addressed. Patient and family and/or caregiver involvement and participation is strongly encouraged throughout the entire rehabilitation process.

Based on the results of the initial assessment, goals are determined with the individual and/or family, and a treatment plan is implemented. The individual’s progress is discussed formally once per week at team conference/medical rounds. Team consultation and collaboration occur throughout the treatment program. In addition to speaking directly with members of the team regarding the patient’s medical condition, progress, functional status, participation in therapy, achievement of established goals, family members and/or caregivers are strongly encouraged to attend and participate in treatment sessions and patient care as appropriate.

Medical Management
As the leader of the interdisciplinary team, Dr. Huang is responsible for directing the medical care of the individual and monitoring the overall team process and outcome. At Burke, a physician is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Medical consultations (Podiatry, Urology, Plastics, ENT, Dermatology, etc.) are available to address all patient needs while at Burke.

Outcome Management
The Spinal Cord Injury Program is actively involved in performance improvement initiatives. As part of the hospital’s strategic plan, the goals of collecting and analyzing data on a continuous basis include:

  • Improve operational efficiency in caring for patients with spinal cord/neurological injury
  • Establish an optimal model for patient centered, cost effective, interdisciplinary rehabilitation care of the individual with a spinal cord injury/neurological injury
  • Develop a data collection system to document and provide information to monitor and evaluate the clinical effectiveness of the program
  • Utilize outcome information to establish standardization of care and evaluation guidelines.

Outcomes that will be measured will address effectiveness, efficiency, access and satisfaction. They include:

  • FIM gain by RIC
  • Discharge disposition
  • Achievement of FIM Scores for mobility and self care tasks
  • FIM efficiency
  • Compliance with the “Three Hour Rule”
  • Percent of patients screened versus patients admitted
  • Patient satisfaction
  • Length of stay

Additional outcomes measured include:

  • Falls
  • Balance

Patient and Family/Caregiver: 
Ongoing education of the individual with a spinal cord injury or neurological condition and the family and/or caregiver is essential in order to maximize recovery from the physical, cognitive and psychological impairments caused by the condition and effectively prepare the individual and family and/or caregiver for the transition to the next stage in the rehabilitation process.

Individuals with a spinal cord injury or neurological condition will receive ongoing education from each discipline throughout his/her stay in order to maximize achievement of each individual’s goals. Much education focuses on the fact that, for many patients, their injuries and resulting conditions are life-changing and lifelong.  Coping, resources, and the need for lifelong follow up to deal with changing needs are provided.

Family members and/or caregivers are encouraged to attend and participate in treatment sessions and patient care activities as appropriate. Providing education and training for the family and/or caregivers is an essential component of the patient’s rehabilitation stay and provides an opportunity to successfully transition the patient to the next phase of rehabilitation.  A monthly support group is held at Burke for people with spinal cord injuries.

Team Members: 
In house education via in-services provided by Burke staff, research staff, as well as outside speakers, including vendors, is provided to team members. Team members attend professional conferences, continuing education courses and seminars throughout the year.  Clinical learning workshops that address current trends in the treatment of spinal cord injury and neurological conditions are provided regularly. Opportunities are available for education for advanced degrees and clinical specialty certifications.The program’s goal is to provide evidence-based, state of the art treatment.  All staff education initiatives and opportunities will attempt to support this goal. Participation in research initiatives and presentations of poster/platform presentations at seminars and conferences is encouraged.

Team members are actively involved in community events, such as contributing to and participating in activities of the White Plains Chapter of the ThinkFirst Program, a nationally based spinal cord and brain injury prevention program.

Documentation Requirements
All appropriate information will be maintained in each patient’s Electronic Medical Record (EMR) for the duration of the patient’s stay. All other documents will be maintained in the patient’s medical chart. At discharge, these documents will be scanned to be included as part of the patient’s EMR.

Each discipline will be responsible for completing all appropriate documentation and abiding by time frames established by the hospital. Discipline specific documentation requirements include:

  • Pre-admission screening information
  • Admission screens
  • Initial evaluations
  • Daily charting
  • Re-evaluations
  • Discharge evaluations
  • Equipment request/justification forms

Located in White Plains, New York, Burke Rehabilitation Hospital's Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Program (SCI Rehab) attracts patients from Westchester County, New York City, Long Island, Northern New Jersey, and Connecticut. Burke also welcomes spinal cord injury patients from across the country and around the world.


Download Our Free Brochure

(Required) indicates a required field