Autonomic dysreflexia (AD) is a sudden rise in blood pressure in a person who has had a spinal cord injury.
AD can be deadly. It needs care right away.
Pain causes an automatic increase in blood pressure. Normally, the brain receives messages about the rise in blood pressure and takes steps to lower it. With AD, the message cannot reach the brain because of the spinal cord injury. This causes the blood pressure to rise to dangerous levels.
AD can be caused by anything that would have caused discomfort before a person's spinal cord injury. Some of the things that can trigger AD are:
A full bladder (common) or a blockage in a catheter
Autonomic dysreflexia. The National Spinal Cord Injury Association website. Available at: http://sci.washington.edu/info/forums/reports/autonomic_dysreflexia.asp. Accessed January 26, 2021.
Eckert MJ, Martin MJ. Trauma: Spinal Cord Injury. Surg Clin North Am. 2017 Oct;97(5):1031-1045.
Eldahan KC, Rabchevsky AG. Autonomic dysreflexia after spinal cord injury: systemic pathophysiology and methods of management. Auton Neurosci. 2017; S1566-0702(17)30113-3
Management of chronic spinal cord injury. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/management-of-chronic-spinal-cord-injury. Accessed January 25, 2021.
Last reviewed December 2020 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated: 1/26/2021
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