Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Student Scholarship

Date Written

Summer 2015

Document Type


Course Number

NURSE 5330

Course Name

Advanced Pathophysiology

Professor’s Name

John D. Chovan, James R. Cacchillo


Spinal Shock, Autonomic Dysreflexia

Subject Categories

Medical Pathology | Medicine and Health Sciences | Nervous System Diseases | Nursing


A spinal cord injury (SCI) can occur at any level of the spinal cord. A SCI involves an interruption between the brain and the body due to an injury or damage to the spinal cord (Sheppard Center, 2011, p1.). The location and extent of the injury is important because it will determine the severity and extent of dysfunction. The higher the injury is to the spinal cord, the more severe the loss of motor function (Sheppard Center, 2011, p.4). The spinal cord injuries are classified by based on the extent of injury, motor and sensory losses. The injury is considered complete when there is no motor or sensory function below the level of the injury (NINDS, 2013, p.4). An incomplete injury means there is still some sensory function and possibly some voluntary motor activity below the level of injury (NINDS, 2013, p.3). If all four extremities are affected, the patient is classified as a tetraplegic or quadriplegic (Sheppard Center, 2011, p. 4). There are also a multitude of medical emergencies and complications that can arise with spinal cord injuries. The two most common life threatening emergencies related to spinal cord injuries are spinal shock and autonomic dysreflexia. These patients are also at high risk for several other complications such as pneumonia, circulation issues, spasticity and muscle wasting, pressure sores, chronic pain, bowel and bladder problems, sexual dysfunction and depression (NINDS, 2013, p.4-5). These complications can haunt spinal cord injury patients for the rest of their lives causing them to have several admissions to the hospital each year.



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