Twenty-four patients with spinal cord injuries were studied to correlate their responses to intra-abdominal disease with the level and completeness of the cord lesion. Patients with complete cervical lesions and lesions of the upper part of the thoracic region (C-4 to T-6) usually responded by early nonlocalized abdominal pain associated with signs of autonomic dysreflexia. As the disease progressed to involve the parietal peritoneum, these patients were more capable of localizing pain to the corresponding dermatome, whereas patients with incomplete lesions were able to localize their pain earlier. Patients with lumbar lesions and lesions of the lower part of the thoracic region (T-7 to L-3) were able to localize their pain earlier than those with lesions located higher in the thoracic region. All patients had delayed diagnoses except those with hemorrhage of the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract. Irrespective of level of cord lesion, increased pulse rate was the most prominent objective acute intra-abdominal pathologic finding. Shoulder pain in the quadriplegic is a most helpful sign.
Charney KJ, Juler GL, Comarr AE. General Surgery Problems in Patients With Spinal Cord Injuries. Arch Surg. 1975;110(9):1083-1088. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1975.01360150027005