Spinal cord infarction is a stroke either within the spinal cord or the arteries that supply it. It is caused by arteriosclerosis or a thickening or closing of the major arteries to the spinal cord. Frequently spinal cord infarction is caused by a specific form of arteriosclerosis called atheromatosis, in which a deposit or accumulation of lipid-containing matter forms within the arteries. Symptoms, which generally appear within minutes or a few hours of the infarction, may include intermittent sharp or burning back pain, aching pain down through the legs, weakness in the legs, paralysis, loss of deep tendon reflexes, loss of pain and temperature sensation, and incontinence.
Treatment is symptomatic. Physical and occupational therapy may help individuals recover from weakness or paralysis. A catheter may be necessary for patients with urinary incontinence.
Recovery depends upon how quickly treatment is received and how severely the body is compromised. Paralysis may persist for many weeks or be permanent. Most individuals have a good chance of recovery.
NINDS conducts and supports research on disorders of the spinal cord such as spinal cord infarction, aimed at learning more about these disorders and finding ways to prevent and treat them.
Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation
636 Morris Turnpike
Short Hills, NJ 07078
Tel: 973-379-2690 800-225-0292
National Spinal Cord Injury Association
120-34 Queens Boulevard, #1320
Kew Gardens, NY 11415
Tel: 718-803-3782 800-962-9629
Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA)
801 18th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006-3517
Tel: 202-USA-1300 (872-1300) 800-555-9140
Office of Communications and Public Liaison
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892
NINDS health-related material is provided for information purposes only and does not necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke or any other Federal agency. Advice on the treatment or care of an individual patient should be obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or is familiar with that patient's medical history.
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Last Modified October 24, 2014