UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The effects of anticonvulsants on neurological recovery after spinal cord injury Warner, Freda


Spinal cord injury is a devastating neurological condition that results in varying degrees of sensory and motor loss, along with other health complications. Neurological recovery after spinal cord injury is generally thought to be limited to the 6-9 month period after injury, and there are currently no approved pharmacological interventions to improve this recovery. Overlapping with a proposed “window of opportunity” for interventions, neuropathic pain can occur early after injury and necessitate pharmacological management. Among the management options, anticonvulsants are routinely administered. Utilizing longitudinal observational human spinal cord injury data, this thesis explored the effects of anticonvulsants on neurological recovery after spinal cord injury using mixed effects regression, and conduct a meta-analysis on the acute progression of neuropathic pain. The research studies within this thesis are bookended by an introduction and methodology section (Chapters 1 and 2) and the discussion (Chapter 7). In Chapter 3, I examined the effect of anticonvulsants and found a beneficial association with motor recovery contingent on administration at 4 weeks. A review of patient records revealed that the majority of anticonvulsants being administered were gabapentinoids (i.e. pregabalin and gabapentin). To further examine whether this effect was specific to gabapentinoids or obtained by all anticonvulsants, Chapter 4 examined a unique spinal cord injured population administered non-gabapentinoid anticonvulsants and found no statistically significant associations with neurological recovery. Chapter 5 included a chart review to examine the effect of gabapentinoid-specific administration, and found a continued beneficial association with motor score, as well as the sensory outcome of light touch. Further, this chapter identified that very early administration (e.g. within 5 days) was necessary to achieve the largest benefit. Finally, Chapter 6 produced a longitudinal framework of neuropathic pain progression in clinical trials. In short, this thesis presents novel findings regarding the administration of anticonvulsants after spinal cord injury, and the beneficial association of gabapentinoid-specific anticonvulsants on motor recovery. Further, it provides an advance in our understanding of neuropathic pain progression after injury and a framework to guide future clinical trials.

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