Grant Awarded to Spot Urinary Tract Infections among Spinal Cord Injury Patients | MedStar Health

Grant Awarded to Spot Urinary Tract Infections Among Spinal Cord Injury Patients

Share this
Medical students in a classroom

Suzanne GroahWASHINGTON, D.C., (November 16, 2016) Suzanne Groah, MD, MSPH, has been awarded a $500,000 grant by the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation to support screening for urinary tract infections (UTIs) among patients with spinal cord injuries at MedStar National Rehabilitation Network.

“Urinary tract infection is the most common bacterial infection seen in the outpatient setting and the most common healthcare-associated infection, making it a major worldwide public health problem,” said Dr. Groah. In addition, spinal cord injury patients are at high risk for recurrent UTI, which is known to cause significant pain and discomfort; however, mobility limitations often create barriers to these patients receiving comprehensive care.

The study, “Development of a Urinary Symptom Questionnaire for People with Neuropathic Bladder,” will develop a questionnaire for individuals being treated for bladder dysfunction due to spinal cord injury to assist them in self-assessments of their health. The process of creating the questionnaire is centered on working with patients with spinal cord injuries, focusing on utilizing their feedback to develop usable tools for others through focus groups and interviews. Focus groups will help develop the questionnaire, which will be validated and assessed by a large, diverse, national sample of people living with spinal cord injury.

The goal is that other patients will be able to use the tool to self-assess if their symptoms may be related to a UTI.

 “When the study team surveyed people with neuropathic bladder due to spinal cord injury and spina bifida, we found that UTI is a problem for more than 80 percent of people,” Dr. Groah said.

By creating this tool, Dr. Groah’s research team will have an enhanced diagnostic approach to UTIs within this population that will be useful in future research, clinical care, patient education, and patient and clinical decision-making. This research is building on a study that currently is recruiting patients, “The Impact of Self-Management with Probiotics on Urinary Symptoms and the Urine Microbiome in Individuals with Spinal Cord Injury and Spina Bifida,” which was funded by a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute grant in 2014.

Dr. Groah is the director of Spinal Cord Injury Consultation Liaison Service and of Spinal Cord Injury Research at MedStar National Rehabilitation Network and associate professor of rehabilitation medicine at Georgetown University. The Craig H. Neilsen Foundation’s funding is dedicated to supporting both programs and scientific research to improve the quality of life for those affected by and living with spinal cord injury.


About MedStar Health Research Institute

The MedStar Health Research Institute is the research arm of MedStar Health, the largest healthcare provider in Maryland and the Washington, D.C., region. MHRI provides scientific, administrative and regulatory support for research programs throughout the MedStar Health system. MHRI’s expertise includes translational research into disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment. These programs complement the key clinical services and teaching programs in the 10 MedStar hospitals and other MedStar entities. For more information, visit

About MedStar Health

MedStar Health is a not-for-profit health system dedicated to caring for people in Maryland and the Washington, D.C., region, while advancing the practice of medicine through education, innovation and research. MedStar’s 30,000 associates, 6,000 affiliated physicians, 10 hospitals, ambulatory care and urgent care centers, and the MedStar Health Research Institute are recognized regionally and nationally for excellence in medical care. As the medical education and clinical partner of Georgetown University, MedStar trains more than 1,100 medical residents annually. MedStar Health’s patient-first philosophy combines care, compassion and clinical excellence with an emphasis on customer service. For more information, visit