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Hypotension requiring vasopressor treatment and increased cardiac complications in elderly spinal cord injury patients: a prospective TRACK-SCI registry study

Nitin Agarwal, Jacob Blitstein, Austin Lui, Abel Torres-Espin, Chalisar Vasnarungruengkul, John Burke, Praveen V. Mummaneni, Sanjay S. Dhall, Philip R. Weinstein, Xuan Duong-Fernandez, Austin Chou, Jonathan Pan, Vineeta Singh, Adam R. Ferguson, Debra D. Hemmerle, Nikos Kyritsis, Jason F. Talbott, William D. Whetstone, Jacqueline C. Bresnahan, Michael S. Beattie, Geoffrey T. Manley, and Anthony DiGiorgio


Increasing life expectancy has led to an older population. In this study, the authors analyzed complications and outcomes in elderly patients following spinal cord injury (SCI) using the established multi-institutional prospective study Transforming Research and Clinical Knowledge in SCI (TRACK-SCI) database collected in the Department of Neurosurgical Surgery at the University of California, San Francisco.


TRACK-SCI was queried for elderly individuals (≥ 65 years of age) with traumatic SCI from 2015 to 2019. Primary outcomes of interest included total hospital length of stay, perioperative complications, postoperative complications, and in-hospital mortality. Secondary outcomes included disposition location, and neurological improvement based on the American Spinal Injury Association Impairment Scale (AIS) grade at discharge. Descriptive analysis, Fisher’s exact test, univariate analysis, and multivariable regression analysis were performed.


The study cohort consisted of 40 elderly patients. The in-hospital mortality rate was 10%. Every patient in this cohort experienced at least 1 complication, with a mean of 6.6 separate complications (median 6, mode 4). The most common complication categories were cardiovascular, with a mean of 1.6 complications (median 1, mode 1), and pulmonary, with a mean of 1.3 (median 1, mode 0) complications, with 35 patients (87.5%) having at least 1 cardiovascular complication and 25 (62.5%) having at least 1 pulmonary complication. Overall, 32 patients (80%) required vasopressor treatment for mean arterial pressure (MAP) maintenance goals. The use of norepinephrine correlated with increased cardiovascular complications. Only 3 patients (7.5%) of the total cohort had an improved AIS grade compared with their acute level at admission.


Given the increased frequency of cardiovascular complications associated with vasopressor use in elderly SCI patients, caution is warranted when targeting MAP goals in these patients. A downward adjustment of blood pressure maintenance goals and prophylactic cardiology consultation to select the most appropriate vasopressor agent may be advisable for SCI patients ≥ 65 years of age.