The International Spinal Cord Society (ISCoS) returned to England, its founding nation in 2012 for the 51st Annual Scientific Meeting (ASM) on September 3rd-5th. With a backdrop of the Paralympic Games, the ISCoS meeting shared scientific, programmatic and educational advances in the management of spinal cord injury and spinal cord diseases (SCI/D) through a series of plenary talks, workshops, symposia, oral presentations and posters.

ISCoS (formerly the International Medical Society of Paraplegia – IMSOP), was founded in 1961 by doctors from around the world. In the early years, the ASM was held at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in the UK; however, over the past two decades, consistent with the international focus of ISCoS, the meetings have been hosted in numerous nations, most recently Italy in 2009, India in 2010 and the United States in 2011. The membership of ISCoS has grown rapidly and consists of physicians, allied health professionals and scientists involved in the management and study of SCI/D.

The 2012 meeting had an audience of nearly 1000 physicians, neuroscientists, physiotherapists, nurses, researchers and other health professionals as well as individuals with SCI/D themselves. The Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, adjacent to Westminster Abbey, served as the venue for this meeting. Themes for the meeting were Long-Term Outcomes of SCI, Putting Evidence into Practice, and Health Economics and Cost Management.

The talks

The annual Sir Ludwig Guttmann Lecture, named after the founder of the International Medical Society of Paraplegia, was given by one of Guttmann’s most well-known and well-respected mentees – Dr Hans Frankel, OBE. Dr Frankel worked at the National Spinal Injuries Centre (NSIC) at Stoke Mandeville Hospital from 1957-2002 and is the developer of the Frankel Classification of Neurologic Injuries. This was later adapted by an international team and is now the gold standard of neurologic testing – the International Standards for the Neurologic Classification of Spinal Cord Injury. Dr Frankel, who still works as an Honorary Consultant at the NSIC, gave an eloquent and historically rich lecture titled ‘The contribution of Stoke Mandeville Hospital to spinal cord injuries.’

A lecture on ‘Global Disparities in Income and Care’ was presented by Dr Hans Rosling from Sweden, in which he explained global trends in health and economics in a lively session, specifically highlighting and dispelling some long-held myths about the developing world. A professor of global health at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Dr Rosling engaged the audience with solid statistics presented with informative visual effects.

In addition, this year marked the launch of ‘The Global SCI Consumer Network’ ( workshop, which will continue to be a feature of future ISCoS meetings. Led by Jane Horsewell, President of the European Spinal Cord Injury Federation, this workshop brought together a large international contingent of individuals living with SCI/D to discuss the ways in which they can work among themselves and with various stakeholders, including SCI healthcare professionals, the SCI research community and providers of healthcare and mobility aids. These partnerships are aimed at the goal of improving the quality of life of people with SCI all over the world.

Regular features of all ISCoS ASMs include a Prevention Symposium which, this year, focused specifically on road traffic accident prevention, prevention of unintentional injuries in teenagers, and approaches to preventing low velocity spinal cord injuries, such as those that occur during rugby matches.

Each year, ISCoS partners with the International Spinal Research Trust (ISRT) to bring in a guest speaker. This year, the ISRT lecture was delivered by Prof Michael Craggs, who spoke on ‘Beyond the injury, before the cure: Neuroprostheses for function and health.’

Launch of E-learn

Perhaps the most noteworthy activity during the meeting was the launch of a global educational initiative of ISCoS. The launch was complimented by a series of workshops. The Asian Spinal Cord Network, Indian Spinal Injuries Centre, Livability Ireland and the New South Wales Lifetime Care and Support Scheme provided initial content support and website development, all with substantial financial support from Access to Health Care. As the project progressed, 332 experts from ISCoS and various affiliated societies in 36 countries worked together to develop the content through 28 sub-committees, each working on a particular sub-module. The basic content of each sub-module was developed from a 3-day workshop conducted after the 2010 ISCoS ASM titled “Comprehensive management of SCI”. The presentations in this workshop were used as a draft by the sub-committees. The content of each sub-module developed by the sub-committees was ultimately reviewed and approved by the Education and Scientific Committees of ISCoS. The modules were then trialed at a workshop in New Delhi in April 2012 and feedback was taken from over 200 delegates. An Editorial Committee comprising 23 experts met simultaneously during the workshop to review and edit the sub-modules. Editorial work continued online thereafter. At, users can work through 7 learning modules that actively engage the users by providing information on the management of SCI for all clinical disciplines. The modules contain didactic presentations, activities, self-assessment questions and reference materials.


With 180 oral presentations and 251 posters to round out the full program, participants at the scientific meeting were treated to the latest information on optimal management of spinal cord SCI/D, ranging from basic science to rehabilitation, presented by an international team of the leading clinicians and scientists in the field.