Autonomic dysreflexia (AD) is a syndrome that often occurs in patients with spinal cord injuries above T-6 and can have life-threatening results if not properly managed. The hypertension associated with AD can cause a great deal of morbidity and mortality, requiring quick and effective blood pressure reduction. Both pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic methods are used to prevent or alleviate the symptoms associated with an acute episode of AD.
We found that current literature is lacking in controlled, prospective, randomized studies comparing the efficacy of various medications used in the treatment of AD. We conducted a nationwide survey to determine the consensus among clinicians concerning the management of AD. The survey was designed to determine the current clinical status of AD, to assess methods of treatment being used and to summarize and give a rationale for the drugs most commonly prescribed. Finally, a suggestion for a wallet-sized card briefly outlining effective treatments of AD in an emergency situation is included.
Results indicate that most clinicians feel that after nonpharmacologic measures have failed, antihypertensive medication is useful in controlling the symptoms of AD while the inciting cause is being found and treated. Agents used most frequently include, but are not limited to, nifedipine, phenoxybenzamine, prazosin, mecamylamine and nitrates.