Evaluation of Cardiovascular Autonomic Function during Inpatient Rehabilitation following Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury

Jill M. Wecht, Joseph P. Weir, Meghana Noonavath, Daniel H. Vaccaro, Miguel X. Escalon, Vincent Huang, Thomas N. Bryce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Assessment of the degree of impaired autonomic nervous system (ANS) function is not part of routine clinical practice during inpatient rehabilitation following traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI). The goal of this investigation was to determine the utility of the International Standards for Neurologic Classification of SCI (ISNCSCI) and the recently revised International Standards to document remaining Autonomic Function after SCI (ISAFSCI) in documenting cardiovascular ANS impairment during inpatient rehabilitation following traumatic SCI. Beat-to-beat recording of supine heart rate (HR) and blood pressure (BP) were collected at the bedside for estimation of total cardiovascular ISAFSCI score, cardio-vagal modulation (i.e., high frequency HR variability [HFHRV]) and sympathetic vasomotor regulation (i.e., Mayer wave component of systolic BP [SBPmayer]). A total of 41 participants completed baseline testing, which was conducted 11 ± 5 days from the admission ISNCSCI examination. There were no differences in supine HR or BP based on the ISNCSCI or ISAFSCI assessments. The HFHRV was generally lower with more distal lesions (r2 = 0.15; p = 0.01), and SBPmayer was significantly lower in those with American Spinal Injury Association Impairment Scale (AIS) A compared with AIS B, C, D (Cohen's d = -1.4; p < 0.001). There were no significant differences in HFHRV or SBPmayer in patients with or without ISAFSCI evidence of cardiovascular ANS impairment. These preliminary data suggest that neither the ISNCSCI nor the ISAFSCI are sensitive to changes in ANS cardiovascular function following traumatic SCI. Bedside assessment of HR and BP variabilities may provide insight, but are not readily available in the clinical setting. Further research is required to evaluate methods that accurately assess the degree of ANS impairment following traumatic SCI.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1636-1644
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neurotrauma
Issue number23-24
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2022


  • blood pressure
  • heart rate
  • paraplegia
  • tetraplegia
  • variability


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