Patients who have suffered a spinal cord injury are at risk of developing an emergency medical condition called autonomic dysreflexia.
Autonomic dysreflexia (AD) is an overresponse within the autonomic nervous system (ANS) that requires immediate medical attention. The ANS is the portion of the nervous system that controls involuntary functions like breathing, heartbeat, digestion, blood pressure, and pain control. Generally, patients with injuries in the mid-to-upper portion of the spinal cord are at risk of AD.
The most common causes of AD are bladder over-distension and constipation. These conditions place added stress on the nervous system and can lead to a dangerous rise in blood pressure. AD is a serious, potentially life-threatening condition that can result in a seizure, stroke, or cardiac dysfunction.
These resources contain helpful information for identifying and seeking help if you are experiencing this condition.
I have a Spinal Cord Injury. I am susceptible to a medical emergency known as Autonomic Dysreflexia (AD), which results in a dangerous rise in blood pressure. It is caused by an unusual/painful stimulus below my injury level – including areas that do not feel pain. The most common causes are bladder over distension and constipation. My baseline blood pressure may be low, so a blood pressure more than 20mmHg above my usual baseline may indicate a serious problem. Blood pressures that may not be worrisome in able-bodied people may result in a seizure, stroke or cardiac dysfunction if AD is left untreated. Once the cause of AD is found, blood pressure returns back to normal on its own.
If you don't know what to do, call 911.
Hypertension resolves when the cause of pain stimulus is found.
Following a spinal cord injury, excess mucus and secretions can accumulate in the lungs. Paralysis of chest and abdominal muscles results in loss of ability to cough effectively. Assisted cough is necessary to aid the person in removing secretions from the lungs, and is performed by applying manual pressure to the upper abdomen as the person attempts to cough. It can be performed in a variety of ways, but the basic principles for each method are the same. If patient has an IVC filter, hand position changes to side.
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