Study: Heart Function Is Impacted by Spinal Cord Injury

Researchers at the University of British Columbia have determined that spinal cord injuries (SCI) affect the heart.

In research published in Experimental Physiology, Christopher West, Ph.D., assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of British Columbia, compared two severities of SCI in rodents. West and the research team concluded that SCI causes changes in heart function. The extent of those changes depends on how severe the SCI is; a relatively small number of healthy nerve fibers is necessary for the heart to function at a near-normal level.

The research team said its heart study “has important clinical implications as one of the primary aims of spinal cord injury management is to reduce the amount of damage that happens after the initial trauma. This exacerbation of the primary injury is termed the secondary injury, and is driven by complex cellular processes that eventually result in the ‘size’ of the injury enlarging and therefore damaging more nerve fibers.”

The study suggests that a patient’s heart function could be improved if secondary injury can be reduced, which would lead to the preservation of more nerve fibers.

About the Author

Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at

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