Q. I’m in my second year as a T5 para. A buddy of mine who has been a T2 para for 14 years sometimes mentions he’s feeling “dysreflexic” and needs to get out of the heat or empty his bladder or take care of whatever is causing his dysreflexia. In rehab I learned that autonomic dysreflexia is very serious and can be life threatening. I’m kind of freaked out about the casual way he mentions this. Am I overreacting? How serious is autonomic dysreflexia?
A. Mike, you pose a very important question. Autonomic dysreflexia is very serious — it can cause a rapid rise in blood pressure that could result in a stroke or be fatal. Although it sounds like your friend is adept at recognizing and addressing symptoms of AD early on, it would be better if he was more diligent about trying to avoid AD symptoms by cooling off sooner, or emptying his bladder before it’s full enough to cause AD symptoms.
Diedre Bricker, RN, of Craig Hospital’s Nurse Advice Line, explains that anybody with a spinal cord injury of T6 and above is at risk for AD. SCI between T6 and T10 puts you at moderate risk of AD; below T10 you are not considered to be at risk of having AD.