Spinal Cord Injuries: Circulatory Issues

The spinal cord is one of the most important parts of the body; when it becomes damaged, various parts of the body can be affected. Aside from the loss of body control, a person’s circulatory system is likely to become compromised.

Understanding the Circulatory System

While it is the job of the respiratory system to provide the body with oxygen, it is the job of the circulatory system to move the oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. Simply stated, the arteries move the oxygenated blood through the body, and then the veins move the deoxygenated blood back to the heart. It is through this process that blood moves throughout a person’s organs and extremities.

Why Would Circulatory Issues Result from a Spinal Cord Injury?

When the spine is injured, the brain loses the ability to communicate with the cardiac nerves; thus, the heart may either beat quite slowly or very quickly and erratically. This, then, changes the rate at which the blood circulates through the body.

What Are the Circulatory Issues From a Spinal Cord Injury?

Plastic heart with blood pressure cuffThose who are paralyzed do experience problems with circulation. The following issues are the most commonly seen:

  • Abnormal heart rate. An abnormal heart rate is considered to be an arrhythmia. This means that the heart has an irregular beat. According to the American Heart Association, there are many adverse physical effects of irregular heartbeat, like dizziness, fatigue, chest pain, and shortness of breath. In extreme cases, arrhythmias can lead to a heart attack.
  • Low blood pressure. While low blood pressure doesn’t sound too upsetting, it is dangerous. Because the body has lost control over the blood vessels, they tend to widen. This can cause the blood to collect in the smaller arteries away from the heart. This is a real problem because the blood needs to continue its circulation throughout the body, especially to areas that are injured.
  • Rise in blood pressure. Just as dangerous as low blood pressure is an extreme rise in blood pressure. This is called autonomic hyperreflexia and is life-threatening. Aside from the irritating symptoms of sweating, nasal congestion, and dizziness (among other symptoms), there is a high likelihood of high blood pressure resulting in stroke, hemorrhaging of the retinas, and cardiac arrest.
  • Blood clots. Muscle movement is important to the circulation of the blood. When a person is unable to utilize their muscles regularly, they are at risk of developing blood clots. In fact, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke says that those with spinal cord injuries are at three times the risk for blood clots than those who do not have a spinal cord injury. This is due to the blood moving sluggishly through the large veins in the legs.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of an incident that has caused a spinal cord injury, there is a strong possibility that you will need financial compensation for your damages. Compensation can include money for your medical bills, income loss, and loss of independence, as well as physical, mental, and emotional damages. We would be honored to help you make the maximum possible recovery. Please call our law office for a free consultation at (703) 591-0067.