Diagnosis and Management of Cardiovascular Risk in Individuals with Spinal Cord Injury: A Narrative Review

Tara Lagu, Samantha L. Schroth, Carol Haywood, Allen Heinemann, Allison Kessler, Leslie Morse, Sadiya S. Khan, Kiarri N. Kershaw, Mark S. Nash

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


More than 16 000 Americans experience spinal cord injury (SCI), resulting in chronic disability and other secondary sequelae, each year. Improvements in acute medical management have increased life expectancy. Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death in this population, and seems to occur earlier in individuals with SCI compared with the general population. People with SCI experience a high burden of traditional cardiovascular disease risk factors, including dyslipidemia and diabetes, and demonstrate anatomic, metabolic, and physiologic changes alongside stark reductions in physical activity after injury. They also experience multiple, complex barriers to care relating to disability and, in many cases, compounding effects of intersecting racial and socioeconomic health inequities. Given this combination of risk factors, some investigators have proposed that people with SCI are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease, beyond that associated with traditional risk factors, and SCI could be considered a risk-enhancing factor, analogous to other risk-enhancing factors defined by the 2019 American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology Primary Prevention Guidelines. However, more research is needed in this population to clarify the role of traditional risk factors, novel risk factors, health care access, social determinants of health, and intersectionality of disability, race, and socioeconomic status. There is an urgent need for primary care physicians and cardiologists to have awareness of the importance of timely diagnosis and management of cardiac risk factors for people with SCI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)268-277
Number of pages10
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 18 2023


  • cardiovascular diseases
  • social determinants of health
  • spinal cord injuries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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