Spinal cord injuries could be termed as incomplete or complete where in the case of the former, body parts below affected region are functioning and are no so in the case of latter. Acute spinal cord injury occurs due to trauma which may cause a bruise, partial or complete tear to the spinal cord. It may be caused due to sports injuries, car accidents or other violent incidents.
Since spinal cord and blood pressure are capable of influencing one another, acute spinal cord injury can also affect blood pressure functioning. Spinal cord being an important part of the central nervous system which transmits messages between the body and the brain, regulate blood pressure. When spinal cord faces an injury, the blood pressure either escalates or decreases to dangerous levels.
Blood pressure of an individual depends upon the person’s physical activity and the elasticity of the blood vessels or its ability to contract and expand. Owing to the injured spine’s delay in transmitting signals to the heart and blood vessels, the blood vessels fail to adjust pressure to the blood to the brain accordingly and finally affect the recovery of the acute spinal cord injury.
The normal blood pressure for a person without acute spinal cord injury is 130/80 mmHg. T6 spinal cord injury is a condition where the affected person has normal extremity functions in head, neck, shoulders, arms, hands and chest, whereas motor control and sensation from the top of the abdomen down is affected. A person with T6 or higher spinal cord injury has normal systolic blood pressure between 90-110 mmHg and autonomic dysreflexia can increase the blood pressure readings by 20 to 40 mmHg.
During such a condition, high blood pressure is paired with decreased heart rates and challenges recovery rates of patients with acute spinal cord injury and hurdles their efforts to perform intense physical activities. In rare instances autonomic dysreflexia can affect those with lower than T6 levels of spinal cord injury.
Some spinal cord injury patients may confront orthostatic hypotension where chronic low blood pressure may cause the patient to faint multiple times a day and thus hinder their routine activities.
When left untreated autonomic dysreflexia can cause stroke, cardiac arrest, seizure, pulmonary edema, retinal hemorrhage, cerebral hemorrhage and death. In the case of orthostatic hypotension, blood stagnates in the lower part of the body like legs and abdomen leading to dizziness, light headedness, blur in vision and nausea.
Spinal cord injury blood pressure and blood flow varies among patients and is unique for each person. Bringing the blood pressure to optimal point minimizes damages and enhances recovery. The optimal blood pressure of the affected person must be deciphered before ushering him to the operation room where surgery is done within the first twelve hours and an aggressive spinal cord injury pressure management is executed.
Spinal cord epidural stimulation is performed to normalize blood pressure while treating acute spinal cord injury and targeted lumbosacral epidural stimulation may restore voluntary movements in patients with chronic spinal cord injury. The stimulation also increases resting blood pressure and decreases chronic hypotension in persons with chronic cervical spinal cord injury.