Autonomic Dysreflexia
Autonomic Dysreflexia in Spinal Cord Injury

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Autonomic Dysreflexia
Autonomic Dysreflexia in Spinal Cord Injury


Spinal Cord Injuries Australia
RH 3

Autonomic Dysreflexia (AD) is a potentially life-threatening medical condition many individuals with spinal cord injury experience.

Causes of Autonomic Dysreflexia in SCI

It emerges after a spinal cord injury, usually when the damage has occurred at or above the sixth thoracic vertebral level (T6). Furthermore, the higher level of spinal cord injury brings us a more complete and higher risk of developing AD.


Autonomic Dysreflexia (AD) causes an uncoordinated autonomic response, leading to potentially life-threatening hypertension. Meanwhile, as a syndrome, it accompanies with:

  • High blood pressure
  • Pounding headache
  • Flushed face
  • Sweating above the level of injury
  • Goose flesh below the level of injury
  • Nasal stuffiness
  • Nausea
  • A slow pulse (slower than 60 beats per minute)
  • More

Autonomic Dysreflexia is considered a medical emergency, so it must be recognized immediately. Moreover, complications associated with AD result directly from sustained, severe peripheral hypertension. Therefore, if left untreated, AD can cause seizures, retinal hemorrhage, pulmonary edema, renal insufficiency, myocardial infarction, cerebral hemorrhage, and death.Autonomic Dysreflexia in Spinal Cord Injury


In people with spinal cord injury, the following methods may help prevent AD.

  • Do not let the bladder become too full
  • Control pain
  • Practice proper bowel care to avoid stool impaction
  • Practice good skin care to avoid bedsores and skin infections
  • Prevent bladder infections.

More importantly, you need to work with your doctor to identify the symptoms and take precautionary steps. Moreover, we have built up a factsheet for Autonomic Dysreflexia where you can get more information about it.

1. A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia [Internet]. Amit M. Shelat (NY): Ebix, Inc., A.D.A.M.; [reviewed 2020 Jun 23]. Available from:

2. Ryan O Stephenson, DO. (updated: Jan 06, 2022) “Autonomic Dysreflexia in Spinal Cord Injury“;