- Pounding headache—caused by the rise in blood pressure
- Sweating above the level of the spinal cord injury
- Nasal congestion
- Blurry vision
- Blotchy skin above the level of spinal cord injury
- Feeling restless
- Flushed (reddened) face
- Chest tightness
- Goose bumps below the level of spinal cord injury
- Cold, clammy skin below the level of spinal cord injury
- The symptoms above are present
- When blood pressure is elevated in someone with a spinal cord injury at the T6 level and above
- Sit upright to lower your blood pressure.
- Elevate your head and lower your legs if possible.
- Take frequent blood pressure checks until the episode is over.
- Loosen or remove any clothes, shoes, leg braces, external catheter tape, or straps.
- Look for possible causes:
- Check your bladder. An overfull bladder is one of the most common causes of AD.
- If you think your bowels may be a cause, do a bowel program if you can. If AD is happening during a bowel program, stop the procedure. You can start again after your symptoms go away.
- Look for signs of injury like a pressure sore, burn, or broken bones.
- You should stay in an upright position.
- Have your blood pressure checked frequently until you are feeling normal.
- Check your tubing to make sure it is free of kinks.
- Empty the drainage bags regularly.
- Make sure the drainage bag is at a level lower than your bladder.
- Check the catheter daily for signs of wear or problems with any piece of the catheter.
- Empty your bowels regularly.
- Avoid tight or restrictive clothing.
- Check your skin regularly for signs of wounds or pressure sores.
- Avoid things that could burn or damage your skin, such as sun exposure or extremely hot water.
- Follow up with your medical team regularly to monitor your condition.
National Institutes of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases http://www.niams.nih.gov
Paralyzed Veterans of America http://www.pva.org
Canadian Orthopaedic Association http://www.coa-aco.org
Spinal Cord Injury Canada http://sci-can.ca
Autonomic dysreflexia. The National Spinal Cord Injury Association website. Available at: http://www.spinalcord.org/resource-center/askus/index.php?pg=kb.page&id=248. Accessed November 20, 2014.
Other complications of spinal cord injury: autonomic dysreflexia (hyperreflexia). University of Miamai/Jackson Memorial Medical Center, Louis Calder Memorial Library website. Available at: http://calder.med.miami.edu/pointis/automatic.html. Accessed November 20, 2014.
Spinal cord injury—chronic management. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated May 22, 2013. Accessed June 12, 2013.
- Reviewer: Rimas Lukas, MD
- Review Date: 11/2014 -
- Update Date: 01/13/2014 -