The author reports the case of a 36 year old man with cervical cord injury in whom autonomic dysreflexia developed into intracerebral hemorrhage during inpatient rehabilitation. This patient showed complete quadriplegia (motor below C6 and sensory below C7) due to fracture of the 6th cervical vertebra. An indwelling urethral catheter had been inserted into the bladder for 3 months, diminishing bladder expansiveness. Bladder capacity decreased to 200 ml and the patient frequently experienced headaches whenever his bladder was full.To obtain smoother urine flow, a supra-pubic cystostomy was performed. The headaches were temporarily cured, but soon relapsed with extreme increases in blood pressure, representing typical symptoms of autonomic dysreflexia. However, no potential triggers were identified or removed, and lack of blood pressure management led to left putaminal hemorrhage. Despite operative treatment, the right upper extremity showed progressive increases in muscle tonus and finally formed a frozen shoulder with elbow flexion contracture. Two factors contributed to this serious complication: first, autonomic dysreflexia triggered by minor malfunction and/or irritation from the cystostomy catheter; and second, the medical staff lacked sufficient experience in and knowledge about the management of autonomic dysreflexia.It is of the utmost importance for medical staff engaging in rehabilitation of spinal patients to share information regarding triggers of autonomic dysreflexia and to be thorough in ensuring proper medical management.
2013 The University of Occupational and Environmental Health, Japan