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Can Nurse. 2006 Sep;102(7):20-5.

Autonomic dysreflexia and telehealth.

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The Rehabilitation Centre, Ottawa Hospital, Ottawa, Ontario.


With the rapid expansion of telehealth lines in the United States and the establishment of provincially funded lines in Canada, a growing number of people use this convenient approach to establish their initial health needs and to pursue self-care. Telehealth providers, for the most part, rely on electronic protocols to offer triaging and advice. Unfortunately, standard protocols are misleading when a premorbid health condition such as a spinal cord injury is present. Symptoms such as a headache, diaphoresis or an elevated blood pressure, which are common occurrences in the general population, may indicate an emergency situation, namely autonomic dysreflexia (AD), when a mid-thoracic and higher spinal cord lesion is present. Since there is no available electronic protocol on AD, this emergency health condition is not recognized by the telehealth provider and may put the caller at risk of serious morbidity or even death. In this article, the authors present the clinical features of AD, the precipitating factors and the nursing management of an episode. The merits and pitfalls of electronic protocols are reviewed and an algorithm is presented to assist telehealth providers in recognizing AD.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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