To evaluate baseline characteristics, describe pulmonary outcomes, and identify weaning predictors for people with acute traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) who are dependent on mechanical ventilation at admission to acute inpatient rehabilitation (AIR).


The retrospective study was conducted at an AIR facility in the United States. It included 91 adults with acute traumatic SCI from 2015 to 2019 who were dependent on mechanical ventilation.


People who successfully weaned (85%) had fewer days from time of SCI to AIR admission (22 vs. 30, p = .04), higher vital capacity at admission to AIR (12 vs. 3 mL/kg predicted body weight [PBW]; p < .001), and lower (caudal) neurological injury level (p < .001) compared to those who failed weaning. The risk of pneumonia was higher in people who failed weaning compared to those who were weaned successfully (risk ratio, 5.5; 95% confidence interval [95% CI], 2.3–13). Receiver operating characteristics (ROC) curves suggest a vital capacity cutoff of 5.8 mL/kg PBW could predict weaning. The vital capacity of ≥ 5.8 mL/kg PBW is associated with 109 times higher odds (95% CI, 11–1041; p < .001) of weaning than vital capacity below that threshold.


In this retrospective study, there was an increased risk of pneumonia in people with SCI who failed weaning at discharge from AIR. Vital capacity was a better predictor of weaning from mechanical ventilation compared to the neurological level of injury, with a cutoff of 5.8 mL/kg PBW predictive of weaning success. Further research is needed on this critical topic.

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