Autonomic dysreflexia (AD), also called hyperreflexia, can occur in persons who have suffered a spinal cord injury at or above the fifth thoracic vertebra (T5). AD means an over-activity of the Autonomic Nervous System. AD occurs when there is an irritation, pain, or stimulus to the nervous system below the level of injury. The irritated area sends a signal to the brain, but because of the injury to the spinal cord, the signal is not able to reach the brain. A reflex action takes place, tightening blood vessels, causing the blood pressure to rise to dangerously high levels. If the blood pressure is not controlled, it may cause a stroke, seizure, or even death.
AD is a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention. Spinal Cord Injury patients, caregivers, and medical professionals must be knowledgeable about AD and its management.