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Current Research

Current SCI Model System Research

Gaylord Specialty Healthcare is a partner in the Spaulding New England Regional Spinal Cord Injury Center (SNERSCIC). The overall goal of SNERSCIC is to provide a multidisciplinary comprehensive system of care for individuals with SCI as a basis for conducting research that extends the existing evidence base for SCI rehabilitation. Our focus is health, function and technology, especially for the most vulnerable, to empower individuals with SCI to lead fulfilling and meaningful lives.

As a partner site in the Model System, we conduct some SCI Model System studies:

The National Spinal Cord Injury Database Project

The purpose of this core study is to allow healthcare professionals and researchers to evaluate trends over time for many aspects of SCI to improve rehabilitation services and help people with SCI live the best they can in the community.  Data collection begins during the inpatient rehabilitation stay, is updated approximately one year after injury, and every five years thereafter.  No medical procedures are involved and information is gathered through a one-on-one interview by phone or in person.

If you believe you are enrolled in the study, please contact Diana Pernigotti at 203-679-3563 or for information regarding your follow up status or to update your contact information.

Equity and Quality in Assistive Technology (EQuATe) 2.0 for Individuals with Spinal Cord Injury

Gaylord is joining eight other Model Systems nationwide, led by the University of Pittsburgh, to explore wheelchair equipment and services provided to individuals with SCI of different ethnic, economic, and social backgrounds. The goal of this study is to improve the quality of wheelchairs prescribed for individuals with SCI. In addition, the proposed research may benefit all individuals who use manual wheelchairs and power wheelchairs in the future, given recent changes in health care policy of competitive bidding that limit financial reimbursement for medical services and supplies. The impact of changes in coverage are likely to be profound, but can only be measured if they are tracked.

For this study, we will collect information on Assistive Technology (AT) used by individuals with SCI, specifically wheelchair make, model, failures, and repairs. This data will enable us to track the impact of insurance market changes, find differences in wheelchair failures, and present this information to wheelchair users. This study also collects information regarding any perceived prejudices you may have experienced in your healthcare system.

For more information, including a consent form for the study, contact Diana Pernigotti at 203-679-3563 or

Development and Validation of the SCI-Functional Index/Assistive Technology  (SCI-FI/AT) Inpatient Short Forms

The SCI-FI instrument was designed specifically for persons with SCI, regardless of level or severity of injury. The content of the SCI-FI is based upon an extensive review of the literature, input from patients with SCI, and clinician focus groups, and is grounded within the International Classification of Function, Disability, and Health framework.

With the development of the SCI-FI/AT, we now have available SCI-FI scales that evaluate a person’s ability to function using adaptive technology in the areas of Basic Mobility, Self-Care, Ambulation, Fine Motor, and Wheelchair function. There are 178 total items in the final SCI- FI/AT domain item banks. Short forms are aptly named as a short paper-based version of the full item banks of each functional domain of the SCI-FI/AT, which is currently administered via computer as a computer adaptive test (CAT).

Aim 1 –Create a SCI-FI/AT inpatient short form that can be completed efficiently by clinicians on patients while they are in the inpatient rehabilitation setting.

Aim 2 – We will conduct a pilot study to evaluate the inter-rater reliability of having clinicians complete the SCI-FI/AT inpatient short forms with a sample of patients in the SNERSCIC SCIMS network.

This study involves inpatient clinicians and they will be asked individually for participation. For more information about the development of the SCI-FI over the past 10 years. Read about previous SCI-FI studies here.


Implementation of Free Water Protocol at a Long Term Acute Care Facility

A new research study will be conducted to determine if patients who have dysphagia resulting in a thickened liquid diet or NPO status can safely tolerate thin liquid water at the inpatient level of care and if so, to what degree of benefit. This study will incorporate a modified Frazier Free Water Protocol which has been widely researched and used by speech language pathologists in the healthcare field.  Oral care, hydration status and patient satisfaction will be closely tracked. The study hopes to prove that patients with dysphagia can have thin liquid water without any adverse reactions to improve overall quality of life and swallow function.

For more information, including a consent form for the study, contact Stefanie Gaidos at 203-741-3482 or

Walking Improvement for SCI with Exoskeletons

Gaylord Specialty Healthcare is participating in a multi-center study with Ekso Bionics called the WISE study (Walking Improvement for SCI with Exoskeletons).  This study will evaluate changes in independent gait speeds of participants with spinal cord injury. It will be conducted with the Ekso GT and results will be compared to both conventional therapy and usual care control groups. 

Eligible participants are community dwelling adults between ages 18-75 with an incomplete SCI; with injury level between C1-T10; have been injured for greater than one year and be able to ambulate at least one step.  The candidate needs to be able to commit to a 12-week training program with sessions occurring 3-times per week for 1 hour.  There are also 4 evaluation visits that will take approximately 4 hours each.

If you have questions or would like to obtain a consent form, contact: Lori Vickers, PT, at, or call 203-741-3385 or Erika Ozdemirer PT, DPT, NCS, at, or call  203-284-2876.