First Case of Autonomic Dysreflexia Following Elective Lower Thoracic Spinal Cord Transection in a Spina Bifida Adult Article

Full Text via DOI: 10.1016/j.wneu.2017.07.147 Web of Science: 000415874900152
International Collaboration

Cited authors

  • Garces, Juanita; Mathkour, Mansour; Scullen, Tyler; Kahn, Lora; Biro, Erin; Pham, Alex; Sulaiman, Olawale A. R.; Smith, Roger; Bui, Cuong J.


  • BACKGROUND: Spinal cord transection is a radical but effective treatment for highly selective cases of symptomatic spinal retethering in paraplegic spina bifida patients. Autonomic dysreflexia (AD) is a potentially life-threatening syndrome involving a dysregulated sympathetic discharge reflex commonly seen following cervical and high thoracic spinal cord injury, leading to a disconnect between autonomic pathways above and below the lesion that can lead to severe complications including uncontrolled hypertension, bradycardia, stroke, and potentially death. Herein we present a case in which a paraplegic spina bifida patient presenting with symptomatic spinal retethering experienced autonomic dysreflexia following an elective spinal cord transection.; CASE DESCRIPTION: A 51-year-old male with a history of complex spina bifida presented with an active cerebrospinal fluid leak. Physical examination revealed a thin covering of abnormal epidermis over the large placode. Magnetic resonance imaging revealed a large myelomeningocele defect with posterior element defects spanning from L2 to the sacrum with evidence of tethering. The patient underwent an intradural transection of the spinal cord with a "blind-pouch" closure of the dura at the level of T12/L1. Postoperatively, the patient developed intermittent episodes of hypertension, bradycardia, headaches, altered mental status, severe perspiration, and red flushing of the upper torso, face, and arms. The diagnosis of AD was made clinically and managed with a positive response to a combination of beta-and alpha-blockade along with patient education on avoidance of common AD triggers. At 5-year follow-up the patient has continued to do well on medication.; CONCLUSION: This case highlights a potential major side effect from elective transection of the spinal cord. If unrecognized and untreated, AD can cause significant distress and morbidity. We hope this first case report serves to supplement existing data and aid in future surgical and medical decision making.

Publication date

  • 2017

Published in

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1878-8750


  • 108