JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

Cardiovascular dysfunction following spinal cord injury

Elizabeth Partida, Eugene Mironets, Shaoping Hou, Veronica J Tom
Neural Regeneration Research 2016, 11 (2): 189-94
27073353
Both sensorimotor and autonomic dysfunctions often occur after spinal cord injury (SCI). Particularly, a high thoracic or cervical SCI interrupts supraspinal vasomotor pathways and results in disordered hemodynamics due to deregulated sympathetic outflow. As a result of the reduced sympathetic activity, patients with SCI may experience hypotension, cardiac dysrhythmias, and hypothermia post-injury. In the chronic phase, changes within the CNS and blood vessels lead to orthostatic hypotension and life-threatening autonomic dysreflexia (AD). AD is characterized by an episodic, massive sympathetic discharge that causes severe hypertension associated with bradycardia. The syndrome is often triggered by unpleasant visceral or sensory stimuli below the injury level. Currently the only treatments are palliative - once a stimulus elicits AD, pharmacological vasodilators are administered to help reduce the spike in arterial blood pressure. However, a more effective means would be to mitigate AD development by attenuating contributing mechanisms, such as the reorganization of intraspinal circuits below the level of injury. A better understanding of the neuropathophysiology underlying cardiovascular dysfunction after SCI is essential to better develop novel therapeutic approaches to restore hemodynamic performance.

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