The optimal mean arterial pressure (MAP) for spinal cord perfusion after trauma remains unclear. Although there are published data on MAP goals after spinal cord injury (SCI), the specific blood pressure management for acute traumatic central cord syndrome (ATCCS) and the implications of these interventions have yet to be elucidated. Additionally, the complications of specific vasopressors have not been fully explored in this injury condition.
The present study is a retrospective cohort analysis of 34 patients with ATCCS who received any vasopressor to maintain blood pressure above predetermined MAP goals at a single Level 1 trauma center. The collected variables were American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) grades at admission and discharge, administered vasopressor and associated complications, other interventions and complications, and timing of surgery. The relationship between the 2 most common vasopressors—dopamine and phenylephrine—and complications within the cohort as a whole were explored, and again after stratification by age.
The mean age of the ATCCS patients was 62 years. Dopamine was the most commonly used primary vasopressor (91% of patients), followed by phenylephrine (65%). Vasopressors were administered to maintain MAP goals fora mean of 101 hours. Neurological status improved by a median of 1 ASIA grade in all patients, regardless of the choice of vasopressor. Sixty-four percent of surgical patients underwent decompression within 24 hours. There was no observed relationship between the timing of surgical intervention and the complication rate. Cardiogenic complications associated with vasopressor usage were notable in 68% of patients who received dopamine and 46% of patients who received phenylephrine. These differences were not statistically significant (OR with dopamine 2.50 [95% CI 0.82–7.78], p = 0.105). However, in the subgroup of patients > 55 years, dopamine produced statistically significant increases in the complication rates when compared with phenylephrine (83% vs 50% for dopamine and phenylephrine, respectively; OR with dopamine 5.0 [95% CI 0.99–25.34], p = 0.044).
Vasopressor usage in ATCCS patients is associated with complication rates that are similar to the reported literature for SCI. Dopamine was associated with a higher risk of complications in patients > 55 years. Given the increased incidence of ATCCS in older populations, determination of MAP goals and vasopressor administration should be carefully considered in these patients. While a randomized control trial on this topic may not be practical, a multiinstitutional prospective study for SCI that includes ATCCS patients as a subpopulation would be useful for examining MAP goals in this population.