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Anaesthesia management in spinal cord injury


Article · April 2015


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Çopuroğlu Elif Cem Copuroglu

Trakya University Trakya University


Sevtap Hekimoglu Sahin Mert Çiftdemir

Trakya University Trakya University


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The Journal of Turkish Spinal Surgery Volume: 26 • Number: 2 • April 2015
pp. 173-176







Spinal cord injuries occur in 1.3% of multiple trauma patients. Multitravmalı hastaların %1,3’ünde spinal kord hasarı oluş-
The most frequent reasons of death in spinal cord injured maktadır. Spinal kord yaralanmalarında en başta gelen ölüm
patients are aspiration and shock. The most important aim sebebi aspirasyon ve şoktur. Spinal Kord Hasarlı (SKH) hasta-
in the anesthesia management of the spinal cord injury (SCI) ların anestezi yönetiminde en önemli amaç sekonder spinal
patients is to prevent secondary spinal damage. hasarın önlenmesi dir.
In trauma patients, maintaining Airway Breathing Circulation Travmada ABC (A: havayolu, B: solunum, C: dolaşım) denilen,
(ABC) is a life saving procedure. In SCI patients, induction ilk aşamada hava yolunun açık tutulması, solunum ve dola-
of anesthesia, maintenance of airway and anesthesia,
şımın sağlanması hayati önem taşımaktadır. SKH’lı hastada
stabilization of hemodynamic parameters are important
anestezi indüksiyonu, havayolunun sağlanması, anestezi ida-
factors affecting mortality and morbidity. In this review, we
aimed to investigate the anesthesia management of spinal mesi, hemodinaminin stabilizasyonu hastaların morbidite ve
cord injured patients. mortalitesini etkileyebilecek farklılıklar göstermektedir. Bu
derlemede, spinal kord hasarlı hastaya anestezik yaklaşımlar
Key Words: Spinal Cord Injury, Anesthesia, Trauma gözden geçirilmiştir.

Level of evidence: Review article, Level V Anahtar Kelimeler : Spinal Kord Hasarı, Anestezi, Travma

Kanıt Düzeyi: Derleme, Düzey V

INTRODUCTION: In vertebrae fractures without SCI, anesthesia

method is similar to vertebrae instrumentation sur-
In multiple trauma patients cervical damage is
gery but in SCI patients it includes additional precau-
observed 4.3%, thoraco-lumbar vertebrae damage
tionary approaches.
is observed 6.3% and spinal cord injury is observed
1.3%. Every year in United States of America, 12000 SCI following vertebrae fracture holds a risk of
spinal cord injury (SCI) patients are being operated 50% mortality in early period. In total SCI possibility
(14). Cervical segment is most commonly effected of the return of the normal neurological functions
(42%), thoracic (31%) and lumbar (27%) regions fol- is 10% and in partial SCI this number is 75%. At the
low it. acute phase of the damage, during surgery, stability
of the patients are very important for neurological se-
Trauma is the one of the common causes of death
quel, morbidity, mortality, and health care costs. Most
in young population. Half of the trauma patients lost
common causes of mortality in spinal cord injury are
their life at the time of the trauma and 30% of it in
aspiration and shock (5). In trauma, ABC (A: airway, B:
the first few hours after trauma (13). Average age of
breathing, C: circulation), maintaining airway, respira-
observation is 40 and male are affected 4 times more
tion and circulation is crucial.
frequently than women. Spinal cord traumas are not
common in pediatric age group, and in that group SCI in the C3-C5 levels may cause deterioration in
when compared to head trauma rate is 1/30. In pe- the pulmonary reserve due to phrenic nerve injury.
diatric age group ligaments are damaged more than Catecholamine release levels are also depending on
bone structures (1,7). the level of the injury. For induction of anesthesia in

Assist. Prof. of Anesthesiology and Reanimation, Department of Anesthesiology and Reanimation, Trakya University Medical Faculty, Edirne.
Assoc. Prof. of Orthopaedics and Traumatology, Department of Orthopaedics and Traumatology, Trakya University Medical Faculty, Edirne.
Assoc. Prof. of Anesthesiology and Reanimation, Department of Anesthesiology and Reanimation, Trakya University Medical Faculty, Edirne.
Assist. Prof. of Orthopaedics and Traumatology, Department of Orthopaedics and Traumatology, Trakya University Medical Faculty, Edirne.

spinal cord injury patients, it must be keep in mind 2. If direct laryngoscopy is not possible with-
that hypotension period during depth of anesthe- out neck manipulation, awake fiber optic intubation
sia maintenance at the intubation may lead to a de- must be planned.
crease in cord perfusion. Manuel in-line stabilization (MILS) is a safe tech-
INTRAOPERATIVE nique in which one person stands at the head of the
NEUROMONITORIZATION: patients and with his fingers holds the mastoid protu-
berance while with his palms support neck and tem-
In patients whom intraoperative motorization is pero-parietal region and another clinician performs
planned, because cortical evoked potentials are af- intubation simultaneously (15).
fected from anesthesia agents especially from inha-
lation anesthetics best choice for anesthesia is total Interventions including mask ventilation before
intra-venous anesthesia (TIVA). Simultaneous use of intubation result in more mobilization in cervical ver-
SSEP (Somato-sensory evoked potential) and MEP tebrae than direct laryngoscopy intubation.
(Motor evoked potential) are more efficient and safe In patients with thoracic fractures, whom ante-
(6). Muscle relaxants due to their effect on inhibiting rior surgery is planned, selective bronchial intubation
muscle response, shout not be administered in repet- may be required.
itive doses after the induction.
AIRWAY: Bradycardia is a result of cardiac sympathetic af-
It must be kept in mind that all high energy trau- ferent loss and unmet vagal activity and can be treat-
mas might result in spinal injury. It is important to ed with atropine. After acute SCI distinct bradycardia
consider cervical trauma in patients with injury above (<45 beats/min) is observed in 71% of the patients.
clavicles. Golden standard for showing cervical bone In cases where no atropine response is observed, it
damage is 3 way cervical vertebral x-rays. Even if the must be kept in mind that temporal venous pace-
radiological imaging is normal, it must be kept in maker might become necessary (10). Before anesthe-
mind that there might be injury due to some other sia induction, in patients whom aspiration is needed
reasons. Complete neurological examination must be application of sedation and 0.5 mg atropine iv., and
performed before anesthesia. Injuries above C5 level procedure taking short time is very important. Under
may accompany diaphragm paralysis and respiratory anesthesia, if aspiration is needed or patient must be
distress. Early airway control is a safe approach (10). positioned face down, in which injury is triggered
Due to gastric atone, these patients must considered serious bradycardia or even cardiac arrest might be
as satiated patients and necessary precautions must observed.
be made to prevent aspiration. In the induction of an-
esthesia, use of succinyl choline as a muscle relaxant HYPOTENSION AND SPINAL SHOCK:
is not appropriate due to the risk of hyperkalemia and SCI below T6 hypotension is common, and bra-
cardiac arrest in spinal injury patients. dycardia, hypotension, ventricular dysfunction and
If more than one colon were injured or there is dysthymia is seen in injuries above T6. Spinal shock
collapse in more than 50% of the vertebral body it is is most commonly seen in SCI patients with a level
considered as unstable vertebrae injury. higher than C7. At the first stage of the injury, sympa-
Maintenance of airway in SCI patients with stable thetic activity is increased. Sympathetic denervation
vertebrae: is seen in lesion above T6 and this period lasts for 8
1. In patients whom direct laryngoscopy is ex- weeks.
pected to be easy, fast intubation after induction Episodic hypotension after acute SCI is seen in
must be preferred. 68% of the cases, and need for vasopressor drugs are
2. In patients whom direct laryngoscopy is ex- 35%. Continuous invasive blood pressure monitoriza-
pected to be hard, awake fiber optic intubation must tion of the patients is important for deciding the intra-
be planned. operative treatment scheme (11). Hypotension if de-
Maintenance of airway in SCI patients with un- velops, generally treated with fluid replacement but
stable vertebrae: n cases that the volume load increases vasopressor
use might be required to keep mean arterial pressure
1. If direct laryngoscopy is possible without neck
manipulation, fiber optic intubation under direct la- at 60-70 mmHg. Keeping pulmonary capillary occlu-
ryngoscopy with manual in-line stabilization (MILS) sion pressure at 14-18 mmHg is sufficient for spinal
must be performed. cord perfusion. Vasopressor of choice should have

Anaesthesia Management in Spinal Cord Injury Patients

beta agonist properties. Blood deficit is sustained by Spinal cord injuries may mask other organ injuries
the use of blood products (erythrocyte suspension or below the level of lesion (like abdominal injury), and
fresh frozen plasma). this must always be considered (3).
After hypotension resulting from loss of vascular In patients whom head injury accompanies
tonus due to sympathetic denervation, bleeding and SCI, intracranial pressure increase, pneumothorax
spinal shock could be observed. This is more com- and ARDS, heart contusion, tamponade, and intra-
monly observed with penetrating trauma (8). Intra- abdominal hemorrhage and hemorrhagic shock in
operative controlled hypotension for bleeding con- patients with accompanying abdominal trauma, fat
trol must be approached with precaution because in embolus in patients with accompanying extrem-
SCI patients this method may deteriorate spinal cord ity fractures and multiple fractures are the problems
perfusion. anesthetists face in multiple trauma patients (12).
It is well known that in those patients, thermoreg-
ulatory mechanisms may be disrupted due to auto-
Methylprednisolone due to its effects on increas- nomic dysreflexis. Continuous motorization must be
ing spinal cord circulation and decreasing lipid per- performed during the maintenance of anesthesia in
oxidation resulting in free radical formation can be SCI patients (4).
administered 30 mg/kg bolus and 5.4 mg/kg/h infu-
sion for 23 hours. Even though, when reviews in the CONCLUSION:
literature are considered, in acute SCI application of It must be kept in mind that most important aim in
methylprednisolone in the first 8 h may decrease spi- the anesthesia of spinal cord injury patients is prevent-
nal injury (2), most recent studies showed high doses ing secondary spinal damage. Patient’s airway must be
of methylprednisolone might be harmful and should ensured as early and safely as possible, and patients
not be administered (9). must be surveyed hemodynamically normovolemic,
normotensive, normothermic and normo-osmolar.



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Corresponding Address: Dr. Elif Çopuroğlu,

Trakya Üniversitesi Tıp Fakültesi Anesteziyoloji ve Reanimasyon AD, 22030, Edirne
Tel: 0532 6331325
Arrival date: 11th October, 2014.
Acceptance date: 26th December, 2014.


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