Background: The 1984/86 published neurogram results showing only rare sympathetic nerve activity (SNA) to the muscles and skin in tetraplegia are still accepted. The present study by a different method attempted to confirm or deny those findings.
Methods and results: The effect of basal SNA to the microcirculation of the feet and calf in 10 complete (AIS A) traumatic tetraplegic and 10 healthy age matched subjects were evaluated by wavelet transform of laser Doppler flowmetry (LDF) recordings. The results clearly indicated there is significant basal SNA from the decentralized spinal cord in tetraplegia. In addition, wavelet analysis allowed a study of other influences on the microcirculation besides SNA. Collectively, in tetraplegia compared with controls, the powers of the low frequency oscillations in blood flow were reduced; in that the endothelium caused less vasodilatation while the SNA and intrinsic vascular smooth muscles induced smaller degrees of vasoconstriction. However, the high frequency and especially the cardiac powers were greater. The latter presenting an obvious important factor for the preservation of blood flow in the microcirculation.
Conclusions: It is suggested that basal SNA to the cutaneous microcirculation occurs in complete tetraplegia, and the significant levels of circulating noradrenaline reported by others indicate this is also true in other parts of the body. This may explain the usual absence of severe, incapacitating, autonomic deficiency in this condition.