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What is Spinal Cord Infarction: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Complications, Diagnosis

A stroke to the spinal cord or to the blood vessels, which supply blood to it is called infarction. This article discusses spinal cord infarction, its symptoms, causes and treatment.

What is Spinal Cord Infarction?

Spinal Cord Infarction

A stroke to the spinal cord or to the blood vessels, which supply blood to it is called infarction. Central nervous system (CNS) has two major parts namely brain and spinal cord. Both are made of nervous tissue. Brain is placed in the upper most part of the body and is protected by skull. In the posterior region, brain is continued as spinal cord which is tubular in structure. It is a thin and elongated organ which is extended to lumbar region. There is a central canal in the spinal cord which is filled with a fluid that nourishes the tissues. This fluid is called cerebrospinal fluid and is continuously moving in between brain and spinal cord.

Spinal cord infarction is a stroke either within the spinal cord or the arteries supplying to it and is caused by atherosclerosis or thickening or closing of major arteries of the spinal cord.1

Causes of Spinal Cord Infarction

There are mainly two kinds of arteries which supply blood to spinal cord. One is on the anterior side and another one is posterior. Anterior spinal artery supplies blood to almost 2/3 of the spinal cord.

There are many causes of spinal cord infarction, some of the which include:

  • Injury
  • Blockage of these arteries
  • Atheromatosis.

Symptoms of Spinal Cord Infarction

Spinal cord infarction can present itself in the most characteristic manner. It may mimic other spinal issues as well, hence proper understanding of the symptoms of spinal cord is important.

Symptoms of spinal cord infarction are:

  • Severe back pain
  • Pain radiated to the legs
  • Loss of tendon reflexes
  • Feeling of weakness extended to legs
  • Paralysis
  • Loss of sensation of pain
  • Loss of detecting temperature variation
  • Incontinence
  • Breathing is also impaired
  • Control over urinary bladder is lost
  • Muscle spasms.

Diagnosis of Spinal Cord Infarction

As there are many related conditions affecting the spinal cord, proper diagnosis of spinal cord infarction, through examination and investigations is essential. The assessment is done through physical test. The doctor sees whether the patient has weakness especially in legs. He/she prefers MRI scan to know the details of any injury in the spinal cord. From this test, doctor also confirms if it is due to interrupted blood supply. Blood supply might be stopped because of rupture of any blood vessel or else because of any blockage.

Treatment of Spinal Cord Infarction

The treatment for spinal cord infarction is planned depending on the symptoms experienced by individual patients.

Some of the most effective treatments of spinal cord infarction include the following,

  1. Medicines are available to make the blood thin if the problem is due to ischemia. These medications prevent the clotting of blood inside the blood vessels. Sometimes medicines like Warfarin are given which prevents blood clotting by interfering with the clotting process.
  2. In case if the patient has high cholesterol in the blood or has hypertension, the relevant medicine to decrease the same is given. While there are a number of medicines available, but one should only take medicines as prescribed by the doctor.

In case of incontinence a thin tube called a catheter might be required to manage the condition.

Complications of Spinal Cord Infarction

Most cases that receive timely treatment recover well. However, in some cases, patients may face problems in long duration. The complications of spinal cord infarction include paralysis, problems with sexual activities, extreme back pain and depression. In this condition along with medications some other therapies are provided to support speedy healing. The therapies may include clinical psychological advices, occupational therapies, counseling, physiotherapies, etc.

Prognosis of Spinal Cord Infarction

Following the treatment, the period of recovery depends upon how fast the problem is diagnosed and the treatment given. It also depends upon the extent of receiving treatment by the patient. The willingness and the hopes of the patient also play a major role in speedy recovery from the condition. Most of the symptoms can be cured except paralysis. This depends upon how severe the paralytic condition is. It can be cured within a short span of time if the disorder is mild. It may take up to several weeks to cure if the condition is severe or else some symptoms or damage may become permanent.


Central nervous system, which includes brain and spinal cord, is supported by peripheral nervous system. Peripheral nervous system has cranial and spinal nerves, which carry the impulse and responses to the required places. In case of any injury or stoppage of blood supply to the spinal cord and its associated tissues, it causes problems with the functions of the corresponding organs. Spinal cord infarction is an important medical condition that needs medical attention. In most of the cases, the problem is acute and needs immediate medical support. Knowing the symptoms, causes, and treatment helps in seeking timely treatment. Negligence of the condition may cause many long term complications. Knowing the To take the advice from health care professionals in time is the best way to solve out may problems.


Also Read:

Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:January 27, 2020

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