▪ Respiratory Complications After Cervical Spinal Cord Injury

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Study Design.

Sixty-five consecutive cases of acute cervical spinal cord injuries were reviewed retrospectively for respiratory complications.


The objectives were to identify factors that may contribute to respiratory dysfunction and to evaluate therapeutic measures designed to reduce respiratory complications.

Summary of Background Data.

Respiratory complications continue to be a major cause of morbidity and mortality after cervical spinal cord injury with a reported incidence from 36 to 83%.


Multiple factors were evaluated which could potentially influence the incidence or severity of respiratory complications. These included age, pre-existing cardiac or pulmonary disease, accompanying major injuries, and the severity of the spinal cord injury. The effects of various therapeutic measures were also assessed including the benefit of rotating beds, early fracture stabilization and patient mobilization.


Respiratory complications occurred in 62% of these patients and were transient in nature, variable in severity and duration, strongly associated with the severity of spinal cord injury, and only marginally affected by therapeutic interventions.


The characteristics of respiratory dysfunction following cervical spinal cord injury correspond to those of spinal shock. [Key words: cervical spine, spinal cord injury, spinal shock, respiratory complications] Spine 1994;19:2315-2320

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