Spinal cord injury (SCI) is a devastating disorder that has a poor prognosis of recovery. Animal models of SCI are useful to understand the pathophysiology of SCI and the potential use of therapeutic strategies for human SCI. Ex vivo models of central nervous system (CNS) trauma, particularly mechanical trauma, have become important tools to complement in vivo models of injury in order to reproduce the sequelae of human CNS injury. Ex vivo organotypic slice cultures (OSCs) provide a reliable model platform for the study of cell dynamics and therapeutic intervention following SCI. In addition, these ex vivo models support the 3R concept of animal use in SCI research - replacement, reduction and refinement. Ex vivo models cannot be used to monitor functional recovery, nor do they have the intact blood supply of the in vivo model systems. However, the ex vivo models appear to reproduce many of the post traumatic events including acute and secondary injury mechanisms. Several well-established OSC models have been developed over the past few years for experimental spinal injuries ex vivo in order to understand the biological response to injury. In this study, we investigated cell viability in three ex vivo OSC models of SCI: stab injury, transection injury and contusion injury. Injury was inflicted in postnatal day 4 rat spinal cord slices. Stab injury was performed using a needle on transverse slices of spinal cord. Transection injury was performed on longitudinal slices of spinal cord using a double blade technique. Contusion injury was performed on longitudinal slices of spinal cord using an Infinite Horizon impactor device. At days 3 and 10 post-injury, viability was measured using dual staining for propidium iodide and fluorescein diacetate. In all ex vivo SCI models, the slices showed more live cells than dead cells over 10 days in culture, with higher cell viability in control slices compared with injured slices. Although no change in cell viability was observed between time-points in stab- and contusion-injured OSCs, a reduction in cell viability was observed over time in transection-injured OSCs. Taken together, ex vivo SCI models are a useful and reliable research tool that reduces the cost and time involved in carrying out animal studies. The use of OSC models provides a simple way to study the cellular consequences following SCI, and they can also be used to investigate potential therapeutics regimes for the treatment of SCI.