Last post contained a brief overview of the cardiac system and how spinal cord injury affects the nervous system that controls it. This post has some of the complications and treatments are described.
Time of Injury In the first three to four minutes of spinal cord injury, there is a massive explosion of neurological activity. This is from a release of the hormone, norepinephrine, leading to bradycardia (slow heart beat) or tachyarrhythmia (fast and irregular heart beat) and hypertension (high blood pressure). All of this happens so quickly that there is not time to react to it unless SCI occurs when you are already under medical supervision such as if the spinal cord injury would happen during surgery or in the Intensive Care Unit when complete monitoring is taking place. As you know, SCI rarely happens in a medically controlled environment. As the initial injury quickly changes, due to lack of sympathetic activity and vagal nerve responses, bradycardia (slow heart beat), hypotension (low blood pressure) and hypothermia (low body temperature) results.
If medical attention is available in this first few minutes, healthcare professionals will open the airway and restore a mechanism for breathing which will let in the oxygen needed to fuel the heart and body. Intravenous fluids are provided to increase blood pressure and medications are given to raise low blood pressure or lower high blood pressure. Warm blankets are provided to maintain an even body temperature.