Sex differences in cardiac function in individuals high-level SCI

Researcher(s): Dr. Christopher West

Drs. Chris West and Alex Williams are investigating whether there are differences between the male and female heart in individuals with spinal cord injuries (SCI) between the C4 and T6 levels, in comparison to any sex-related differences that exist in uninjured individuals. We want to know whether these sex-related differences in the heart exist at rest, and also when your posture changes.

This study requires you to visit our lab (Blusson Spinal Cord Centre, 3rd floor) two times. In the first visit, we will make sure we can get clear images of your heart with ultrasound (see Image 1), and then make sure you are able to tolerate the tilt table (up to 45 or 60 degrees upwards). If so, we will ask you to wear a blood pressure monitor for 24 hours, and then you will return to the lab for a second visit where we will take ultrasound images of your heart while we will change your posture on the tilt table (upwards and downwards, see Image 2).

Why should you participate in this study?

At the moment we don’t know whether there are differences in the male and female hearts after SCI, so this study will be the first to look at whether those sex-related differences exist. This study will also provide important information on whether blood pressure events are related to any differences in heart structure and function in males and females with SCI.

You may be eligible to participate in this study if you are:

  • Living with SCI or are uninjured
    • Individuals with motor-complete SCI (more than 1 year) will be included if they have a lesion between the C4 and T6 levels
  • Between the ages of 18-40

For participants with SCI, you cannot participate in this study if you:

  • Have a history and/or symptoms of cardiovascular disease (e.g. chest pain, shortness of breath, stroke, hypertension)
  • Have blood pressure at rest greater than 140/90 or less than 90/55
  • Have had major trauma or surgery within the last 6 months
  • Are a current smoker or have quit within the last 12 months
  • Have known active Stage 3 or 4 pressure ulcer (based on the National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel classification)
  • Have recent (within 1 year) history of lower-extremity or non-union fracture (permanent failure of healing following a broken bone)
  • Have any unstable medical/psychiatric condition that is likely to affect your ability to complete this study

You may be excluded at the discretion of the principal investigator due to other, unforeseen, safety issues.

For uninjured participants, you cannot participate in this study if you:

  • Have any history of cardiovascular, respiratory, or musculoskeletal disease
  • Have blood pressure at rest greater than 140/90 or less than 90/55
  • Are a current smoker or have quit within the last 12 months
  • Are involved in planned exercise training that includes more than 1 hour of moderate-intensity aerobic training 5 times per week, or 3 or more sessions of high-intensity training per week

Time commitment

Two visits on separate days, each lasting 1-2 hours

Compensation for participation

Participants will receive an honorarium upon completion of the study.

This study will take place at:

ICORD/Blusson Spinal Cord Centre (818 West 10th Avenue, Vancouver)

For more information or to sign up to participate, please contact the study coordinator, Alexandra Williams, by email at