Ascending myelopathy in the early stage of spinal cord injury


A 30-year-old healthy woman was involved in a road traffic accident. She sustained a fracture dislocation of T11/12 with a complete Frankel A paraplegia below T11. She had no associated injuries. High Dose Methylprednisolone was administered according to the NASCIS III protocol (48 h) together with low molecular weight Heparin and gastroprotected medication. Complete transection of the spinal cord and an anterior haematoma from T11 to T12 were confirmed on X rays, CT's and MRI scans. Posterior surgical stabilisation was performed using Isola instrumentation, starting 8 h post injury. Her post surgical period was uneventful except for some episodes of low blood pressure (85/60 mmHg) from which she had no symptoms. On the 12th post operative day, while in the physiotherapy department, she complained of right scapular pain. This occurred every time she was sat up and was associated with paraesthesia of both upper limbs. Two days later she deteriorated neurologically and her level ascended initially to T8 and then to T3. MRI of the spine with and without gadolinium showed spinal cord oedema between C3 and T1. There was no evidence of haemorrhage or syringomyelia. The authors discussed this case making different hypotheses. They are mainly the following: (1) Gradually ascending ischaemia due to a vascular disorder; (2) Double spinal trauma; (3) Ischaemia related to repeated hypotensive episodes; (4) Low grade intramedullary tumour; and (5) Thrombus of the Radicularis Magna artery. The case has been recognised as being very rare and interesting. In the conclusions, the presenting author stresses the importance of adopting MRI-compatible instrumentation for the surgical stabilisation of the spine, and careful monitoring of blood pressure during the acute phase of spinal cord injury. Dr Aito agrees with Mr El Masry about the opportunity of forming a group of clinicians in order to discuss protocols to cope with this devastating complication.

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Correspondence to S Aito.

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Aito, S., El Masry, W., Gerner, H. et al. Ascending myelopathy in the early stage of spinal cord injury. Spinal Cord 37, 617–623 (1999).

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  • spinal cord injury
  • paraplegia
  • ascending myelopathy

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