Cardiovascular and temperature changes in spinal cord injured rats at rest and during autonomic dysreflexia

A. S. Laird, P. Carrive, P. M. E. Waite

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55 Citations (Scopus)


In patients with high spinal cord injuries autonomic dysfunction can be dangerous, leading to medical complications such as postural hypotension, autonomic dysreflexia and temperature disturbance. While animal models have been developed to study autonomic dysreflexia, associated temperature changes have not been documented. Our aim here was to use radiotelemetry and infrared thermography in rodents to record the development of cardiovascular and skin temperature changes following complete T4 transection. In adult male Wistar rats (n = 5), responses were assessed prior to spinal cord injury (intact) and for 6 weeks following injury. Statistical analysis by a repeated-measure ANOVA revealed that following spinal cord injury (SCI), rats exhibited decreased mean arterial pressure (MAP, average decrease of 26 mmHg; P < 0.035) and elevated heart rate (HR, average increase of 65 bpm, P < 0.035) at rest. The basal core body temperature following SCI was also significantly lower than intact levels (-0.9°C; P < 0.0035). Associated with this decreased basal core temperature following SCI was an increased skin temperature of the mid-tail and hindpaw (+5.6 and +4.0°C, respectively; P < 0.0003) consistent with decreased cutaneous vasoconstrictor tone. Autonomic dysreflexia, in response to a 1 min colorectal distension (25 mmHg), was fully developed by 4 weeks after spinal cord transection, producing increases in MAP greater than 25 mmHg (P < 0.0003). In contrast to the tachycardia seen in intact animals in response to colorectal distension, SCI animals exhibited bradycardia (P < 0.0023). During episodes of autonomic dysreflexia mid-tail surface temperature decreased (approx. -1.7°C, P < 0.012), consistent with cutaneous vasoconstriction. This is the first study to compare cardiovascular dysfunction with temperature changes following spinal cord transection in rats.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)539-548
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Physiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2006
Externally publishedYes


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