7 Common Spinal Cord Injury Complications You Should Know About

A spinal cord injury can make you susceptible to certain medical complications. Learn about these conditions so you can seek medical attention promptly.

7 Common Complications You Should Know About

Learn about common complications after spinal cord injury.

There are certain complications that occur more commonly after spinal cord injury, some of which are medical emergencies. These complications are often referred to as secondary conditions. That’s because they arise from medical risks that come after a spinal cord injury.

Common spinal cord injury complications

Below are seven complications that can occur due to a spinal cord injury. It’s important to become familiar with them so you can watch for symptoms.




Broken bones can occur, even with low-impact activity. People with spinal cord injuries are twice as likely to break leg bones as the general population. This is usually the result of osteopenia or osteoporosis (see below).

Osteopenia or osteoporosis

Chronic bone disease involving low bone mass and deterioration of bone, which can raise the risk of fractures.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE)

Blood clots that form in a vein deep in the body can cause leg pain, swelling, and redness. If a clot travels through the bloodstream, it can lodge in a lung. This is called a pulmonary embolism, or PE. A PE is a medical emergency.

Orthostatic hypotension

This is sudden low blood pressure that occurs with position changes. It may cause fainting, profuse sweating, and a rapid heart rate.

Autonomic dysreflexia (AD)

This is a risk for people with SCI level T6 and above. Their blood pressure rises significantly, and they may have a pounding headache, a slow heart rate, profuse sweating, goose bumps, flushed skin, blurred vision, and anxiety. This is a medical emergency.


This is an infection that enters the bloodstream. Symptoms can include fever and chills, confusion, nausea and vomiting, increased heart rate, and low blood pressure.


This is an infection involving the lungs. This can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or other organisms. Symptoms may include fever, cough, weakness, and shortness of breath.

Bladder and kidney stones

This is a solid piece of material that forms from substances in the urine. A stone can stay in the kidney or travel down the urinary tract. Stones can block the flow of urine, increase infection risk, and cause pain.

What you can do

Because you may be more prone to these medical complications, it’s important for you to learn about these risks so you can monitor any potential symptoms and discuss with your healthcare professional. You should also discuss ways of preventing them with your healthcare provider.