Collaborative Research Shows Connection Between Hypogonadism and Spinal Cord Injury

Woman standing with hand on shoulder of man in wheelchair in front of a window

A team of researchers from MedStar Health, the Washington VA Hospital and the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine has collaborated on evaluating the frequency and causation of hypogonadism in men with spinal cord injury.

“Prevalence and Etiology of Hypogonadism in Young Men with Chronic Spinal Cord Injury: A Cross-Sectional Analysis From Two University-Based Rehabilitation Centers” was published in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. The research authors were Shannon D. Sullivan, MD, PhD (currently at the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, U.S. Food and Drug Administration and MedStar Washington Hospital Center); Mark S. Nash, PhD, FACSM (University of Miami Miller School of Medicine); Eshetu Tefera, MS (MedStar Health Research Institute); Emily Tinsley, MS (MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital); Marc R. Blackman, MD (DC VA Medical Center/Georgetown University School of Medicine/George Washington University School of Medicine); and Suzanne Groah, MD (MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital/MedStar Georgetown University Hospital).

The study participants were men, 18-45 years old, with chronic, motor-complete spinal cord injury (SCI), without the presence of other conditions or use of testosterone therapy. This secondary cross-sectional analysis evaluated participants through the results of standard assays and x-rays.

“Spinal cord injury (SCI) triggers an ‘accelerated aging’ process that may include development of hypogonadism, even among younger men with SCI; however, few studies have investigated the prevalence or etiology of hypogonadism in men with SCI,” according to this report.

In men, hypogonadism means that the body does not produce sufficient amounts of testosterone. Symptoms can include loss of body hair, fatigue, erectile dysfunction, and infertility. While hypogonadism can develop due to age, the objective of this study was to investigate the prevalence, risk factors, and cause of hypogonadism in otherwise-healthy young men with chronic, motor-complete SCI.

Identifying the prevalence and risk factors for testosterone deficiency in men with SCI is important for their long-term health, as “young men with SCI also are at increased risk for developing metabolic dysfunction after injury, which may be exacerbated” by low testosterone according to the study.

The authors found that “hypogonadism is significantly more common in young men with SCI than in similarly aged men without SCI, suggesting that SCI should be identified as a risk factor for testosterone deficiency and that routine screening for hypogonadism should be performed in the SCI population.”

Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. DOI: 10.1016/j.pmrj.2016.11.005