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Aim

Autonomic Dysreflexia (AD) is characterised by a sudden rise in blood pressure which may lead onto a cerebral haemorrhage (stroke) and even death. It must always be treated as a medical emergency. Those that are at risk of AD are individuals with a spinal cord injury above T6.

Within a normal functioning nervous system, blood pressure rises when the body encounters a harmful stimulus. The nervous system responds via the autonomic nervous system, which results in dilation of the blood vessels, this in turn lowers the blood pressure and the body circulation remains in a safe and static state.

Patients with a spinal cord injury located at Thoracic spinal level 6 (T6) the ability of the autonomic nervous system to respond normally is affected. As a result the autonomic system cannot lower the blood pressure in response to the pain or discomfort below the level of the spinal cord injury. Blood pressure will continue to rise until the stimulus is removed. This can place the patient at risk of cerebral haemorrhage if not managed appropriately.

 

Policy Details

Download: PDF version
Compiled by: Andrea Lewis, Chief Nurse
Ratified by: N/A
Date Ratified: February 2022
Date Issued: February 2022
Review Date: February 2025
Target Audience: All healthcare staff
Contact name: Andrea Lewis, Chief Nurse