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Autonomic dysreflexia is a severe and potentially life-threatening condition in patients with spinal cord injury, as it can lead to myocardial ischemia, brain hemorrhage, or even death. Urodynamic investigation is the gold standard to assess neurogenic lower urinary tract dysfunction due to spinal cord injury and reveal crucial pathological findings, such as neurogenic detrusor overactivity. However, neurogenic detrusor overactivity and urodynamic investigation are known to be leading triggers of autonomic dysreflexia. Therefore, we aimed to determine predictors of autonomic dysreflexia in individuals with spinal cord injury during urodynamic investigation.
This prospective cohort study included 300 patients with spinal cord injuries and complete datasets of continuous non-invasive cardiovascular monitoring, recorded during same session repeat urodynamic investigation. We used logistic regression to reveal predictors of autonomic dysreflexia during urodynamic investigation.
We found that level of injury and presence of neurogenic detrusor overactivity were the only two independent significant predictors for autonomic dysreflexia during urodynamic investigation. A lesion at spinal segment T6 or above (odds ratio (OR) 5.5, 95% CI 3.2–9.4) compared to one at T7 or below, and presence of neurogenic detrusor overactivity (OR 2.7, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.4–4.9) were associated with a significant increased odds of autonomic dysreflexia during urodynamic investigation. Both odds persisted after adjustment for age, sex, and completeness and stage of injury (adjusted OR (AOR) 6.6, 95% CI 3.8–11.7, and AOR 2.2, 95% CI 1.1–4.5, respectively). Further stratification by lesion level showed level-dependent significantly increased adjusted odds of autonomic dysreflexia, i.e., from C1–C4 (AOR 16.2, 95% CI 5.9–57.9) to T4–T6 (AOR 2.6, 95% CI 1.3–5.2), compared to lesions at T7 or below.
In patients with neurogenic lower urinary tract dysfunction due to spinal cord injury, autonomic dysreflexia is independently predicted by lesion level and presence of neurogenic detrusor overactivity. Considering the health risks associated with autonomic dysreflexia, such as seizures, stroke, retinal bleeding, or even death, we recommend both continuous cardiovascular monitoring during urodynamic investigation in all spinal cord-injured patients with emphasis on those with cervical lesions, and appropriate neurogenic detrusor overactivity treatment to reduce the probability of potentially life-threatening complications.