Respiratory Complications

Respiratory Complications 2018-07-25T16:11:43-04:00

Respiratory Complications

Inspiratory capacity is diminished in persons with higher level lesions of spinal cord injury (SCI), which contributes to microatelectasis, dyspnea with exertion, and, in those with more severe impairments, respiratory insufficiency [1]. Muscles of expiration are impaired in many individuals with spinal cord injury (eg, injury >T8) with profound effects on cough effectiveness and, presumably, on clearance of secretions and susceptibility to lower respiratory tract infections [1]. In persons with SCI, quality of life (QoL) is diminished by respiratory symptoms that include cough, phlegm, and wheezing [2, 3].

Although there has been some work examining QoL and participation in persons who are ventilator-dependent [4-8], there is a need for a better understanding how respiratory complications impact QoL considering that they are a leading cause of mortality [9].


Spinal Cord Essentials – is a patient education initiative which aims help people through rehabilitation following SCI.  Below is a downloable PDFs of the lung volume augmentation handout.  


1. Cardozo CP. Respiratory complications of spinal cord injury. J Spinal Cord Med 2007;30:307-8.

2. Jain NB, Sullivan M, Kazis LE, Tun CG, Garshick E. Factors associated with health-related quality of life in chronic spinal cord injury. Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 2007;86:387–96.

3. Spungen AM, Grimm DR, Lesser M, Bauman WA, Almenoff PL. Self-reported prevalence of pulmonary symptoms in subjects with spinal cord injury. Spinal Cord. 1997;35:652–7.

4. Bach JR, Tilton MC. Life satisfaction and well-being measures in ventilator assisted individuals with traumatic tetraplegia. Arch Phys Med Rehabil 1994;75:626-32.

5. Bushnik T. Access to equipment, participation, and quality of life in aging individuals with high tetraplegia (C1-4). Top Spinal Cord Inj Rehabil 2002;7:17-27.

6. Bushnik T, Charlifue S. Longitudinal study of individuals with high tetraplegia (C1-C4) 14 to 24 years postinjury. Top Spinal Cord Inj Rehabil 2005;10:79-93.

7. Hall KM, Knudsen ST, Wright J, Charlifue SW, Graves DE, Werner P. Follow-up study of individuals with high tetraplegia (C1-C4) 14 to 24 years postinjury. Arch Phys Med Rehabil 1999;80:1507-13.

8. Warschausky S, Dixon P, Forchheimer M, Nelson VS, Park C, Gater D, Tate D. Quality of life in persons with long-term mechanical ventilation or tetraplegic SCI without LTMV. Top Spinal Cord Inj Rehabil 2005;10:94-101.

9. DeVivo MJ, Krause JS, Lammertse DP. Recent trends in mortality and causes of death among persons with spinal cord injury. Arch Phys Med Rehabil 1999;80:1411-9.

Page last updated May 12, 2013