Electrocardiographic abnormalities in the early stage following traumatic spinal cord injury

J C Furlan, F Verocai, X Palmares, M G Fehlings
Spinal Cord 2016, 54 (10): 872-877

STUDY DESIGN: Retrospective cohort study.

OBJECTIVE: Although cardiac arrhythmias are relatively well recognized in the chronic stage after spinal cord injury (SCI), little is known regarding its occurrence during the early stage. The objective of this study was to examine electrocardiogram changes within the first 72 h after acute traumatic SCI.

SETTING: Acute spine trauma center, Toronto, Ontario, CanadaMethods:This study included all consecutive patients with spine trauma admitted to our institution from January 1998 to June 2007 who had an electrocardiogram within the first 72 h post trauma. Patients were divided into four groups: (I) patients with motor complete SCI at T6 or above; (II) patients with motor incomplete SCI at T6 or above; (III) patients with spine trauma but no/minor SCI at T6 or above; and (IV) patients with SCI below T6.

RESULTS: There were 69 men and 20 women with mean age of 53.8 years (16-88 years). All groups were comparable regarding age, sex, pre-existing comorbidities and cause of SCI. There were no significant differences among the groups regarding predominant rhythm, PR interval, atrial-ventricular conduction, ventricular rate, QRS axis and intraventricular conduction abnormalities. Nonetheless, patients in Group I had longer RR interval (P=0.016), longer QTc (P=0.025) and more prolonged duration of the longest QRS (P=0.017) in comparison with the other groups.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results indicate that electrocardiogram abnormalities are more common within the first 72 h following acute traumatic, motor complete, cervical or high-thoracic SCI. This may represent early manifestations of autonomic dysfunction due to disruption of descending cardiovascular pathways in individuals with severe SCI at T6 or above.

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