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Early Cardiac Pacemaker Placement for Life-Threatening Bradycardia in Traumatic Spinal- Cord Injury
Journal of Trauma (2011)
  • Jacob R. Moerman
  • Benjamin D. Christie
  • Leon N. Sykes
  • Robert L. Vogel, Georgia Southern University
  • Tracy L. Nolan
  • Ashley W. Dennis
Background: High cervical spinal cord injury (CSCI) can cause life-threatening bradycardia from autonomic instability that may be resistant to pharmacologic interventions. Placement of a cardiac pacemaker, traditionally reserved for patients refractory to drug therapy, may be lifesaving. Methods: Our Level I trauma center registry found all patients with CSCI from 2003 to 2009. A retrospective chart review identified major events involving the circulatory system: those exhibiting bradycardia (minor, heart rate 40-60/min; major, heart rate <40/min), hypotension (systolic blood pressure <80 mm Hg), asystole, and cardiac arrest. Records of pharmacological interventions (e.g., atropine) and details of pacemaker placement (e.g., timing and any complications) were reviewed. Statistical differences were determined by Wilcoxon signed-rank test, with p < 0.05 as significant. Results: Of the 106 patients with CSCI, 15 (14%) had bradycardia and 7 of those (47%) underwent cardiac pacemaker placement. Six of seven patients had reviewable data. A total of 35 events occurred in these six patients before pacemaker placement. Subsequent to placement, there were zero events of cardiovascular instability (p = 0.0135). Major bradycardic episodes were reduced from 9 to 0 (p = 0.0206) and incidents requiring atropine administration from 9 to 0 (p = 0.0197). Four survived; two patients died from pulmonary complications. There were no complications related to pacemaker insertion. Conclusions: Patients with CSCI life-threatening complications of bradycardia benefit from early placement of a cardiac pacemaker. Early stabilization may facilitate transfer out of the intensive care unit, mobilization, physical therapy, rehabilitation, and outcome.
  • Cervical spinal cord injury; Cardiac pacemaker; Bradycardia; Hypotension; Autonomic instability.
Publication Date
Citation Information
Jacob R. Moerman, Benjamin D. Christie, Leon N. Sykes, Robert L. Vogel, et al.. "Early Cardiac Pacemaker Placement for Life-Threatening Bradycardia in Traumatic Spinal- Cord Injury" Journal of Trauma Vol. 70 Iss. 6 (2011)
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