Back to Blog

0 stars Article rating

Spinal Cord Injuries: What is Autonomic Dysreflexia?

This Friday 15th May is National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness day. The day aims to promote some of the less well-known issues in spinal cord injury. A really important and potentially life threatening problem for some spinal cord injured people is Autonomic Dysreflexia - yet very few people, even some doctors, know what it is or how to spot it.

Autonomic Dysreflexia (AD) is a clinical condition that can affect people with spinal cord injury at a certain level. AD can occur in people who have been injured at or above the sixth vertebrae of the thoracic spine (commonly known as T6.)

NHS statistics indicate that AD occurs in 83 – 85% of tetraplegic and high level paraplegic patients.

What happens to a person with AD? AD causes a very sudden and uncontrolled rise in blood pressure. Initial symptoms include a headache, goose pimples, sweating, nausea, slow pulse, blotchy skin and a red face.

Unfortunately, however, spinal cord injured people who attend Accident and Emergency with these symptoms can sometimes be mistaken for simply being intoxicated rather than critically ill. As a result, people who are at risk of AD can carry alert cards which explain the condition and the treatment that needs to be administered.

The trigger for AD is an irritation below the level of injury. Usually it relates to bladder or bowel function but it can be anything that interferes with the autonomic nervous system and prevent signals reaching the brain. Other prompts for AD include a broken bone or ingrowing toenail.

It is vitally important that AD awareness is increased. The condition needs treatment immediately. If this doesn’t happen, sufferers can experience a stroke, heart attack, brain haemorrhage or seizures. The condition can be fatal.

Many healthcare professional are unfamiliar with the condition. In conjunction with the Spinal Injuries Association, Slater and Gordon are working hard to change this. At Slater and Gordon, we are committed to helping raise awareness of all issues affecting the spinal cord-injured community.

We are proud to support the Spinal Injuries Association study days for healthcare professionals, which provide specialist training to people working in the NHS on topics like AD, bowel and bladder management as well as how to move and handle spinal cord-injured patients.

Jenny Maloney is an Associate Solicitor specialising in Spinal Injury Claims at Slater Gordon Lawyers UK.

Slater and Gordon UK spinal injury specialist, who sustained a spinal cord injury in a diving accident as a teenager and who had a dysreflexic attack a year after his injury - said: "Autonomic Dysreflexia is very frightening. The first time it happened, I had no idea what was going on. I felt so ill and the headache I had was absolutely terrible. Fortunately, I now know how serious AD is and I can spot the warning signs before my condition becomes too serious."

The Slater and Gordon Spinal Injuries team has access to a network of treatment providers and medical experts with a vast range of experience in helping people who have suffered serious injuries. We can arrange medical treatment, physiotherapy, counselling, retraining, re-housing and many other rehabilitation services. Whatever the nature and extent of your injuries, we will make sure you are in the very best hands.

For a free consultation, call us on freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online and we will call you.



Take a second to rate this article

Rate an article

Thank you!