Heart rate changes associated with autonomic dysreflexia in daily life of individuals with chronic spinal cord injury

Belinda Yee, Tom E. Nightingale, Andrea L. Ramirez, Matthias Walter, Andrei Krassioukov

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Study design: Secondary data analysis.

Objective: To characterize heart rate (HR) changes during autonomic dysreflexia (AD) in daily life for individuals with chronic spinal cord injury (SCI).

Setting: University-based laboratory/community-based outpatient.

Methods: Cardiovascular data, previously collected during a 24-h ambulatory surveillance period in individuals with chronic SCI, were assessed. Any systolic blood pressure (SBP) increase ≥20 mmHg from baseline was identified and categorized into confirmed AD (i.e., diarized trigger), unknown (i.e., no diary entry), or unlikely AD (i.e., potential exertion driven SBP increase) groups. SBP-associated HR changes were categorized as unchanged, increased or decreased compared to baseline.

Results: Forty-five individuals [8 females, median age and time since injury of 43 years (lower and upper quartiles 36–50) and 17 years (6–23), respectively], were included for analysis. Overall, 797 episodes of SBP increase above AD threshold were identified and classified as confirmed (n = 250, 31.4%), unknown (n = 472, 59.2%) or unlikely (n = 75, 9.4%). The median number of episodes per individual within the 24-h period was 13 (8–28). HR-decrease/increase ratio was 3:1 for confirmed and unknown, and 1.5:1 for unlikely episodes. HR changes resulting in brady-/tachycardia were 34.4%/2.8% for confirmed, 39.6%/3.4% unknown, and 26.7%/9.3% for unlikely episodes, respectively.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that the majority of confirmed AD episodes are associated with a HR decrease. Using wearable-sensors-derived measures of physical activity in future studies could provide a more detailed characterization of HR changes during AD and improve AD identification.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSpinal Cord
Early online date9 Jun 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Jun 2022


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