Central Cord Syndrome

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Douglas D. Nowak, MD, Joseph K. Lee, MD, Daniel E. Gelb, MD, Kornelis A. Poelstra, MD, PhD and Steven C. Ludwig, MD J Am Acad Orthop Surg, Vol 17, No 12, December 2009, Central cord syndrome is the most common type of incomplete spinal cord injury. This syndrome most often occurs in older persons with underlying cervical spondylosis caused by a hyperextension mechanism. It also occurs in younger persons who sustain trauma to the cervical spine and, less commonly, as a result of nontraumatic causes. The upper extremities are more affected than the lower extremities, with motor function more severely impaired than sensory function. Central cord syndrome presents a spectrum, from weakness limited to the hands and forearms with sensory preservation, to compete quadriparesis with sacral sparing as the only evidence of incomplete spinal cord injury. Historically, treatment has been nonsurgical, but recovery is often incomplete. Early surgical treatment of central cord syndrome remains controversial. However, recent studies have shown benefits, particularly of early surgery to decompress the spinal cord in patients with pathologic conditions revealed by radiography or MRI.

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