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Neurosurgery. 2001 Mar;48(3):673-6.

Cord compression secondary to cervical disc herniation associated with calcification of the ligamentum flavum: case report.

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  • 1Servicio de Neurocirurgía, Hospital Universitario Infanta Cristina, Carretera de Portugal s/n, Badajoz, Spain.



Calcification of the ligamentum flavum is a rare disease that occurs almost exclusively in elderly Japanese people. We report the case of a young Caucasian woman who presented with a C5-C6 disc herniation associated with a cervical calcified ligamentum flavum.


The patient presented with a cord compression syndrome of 76 hours' evolution. At exploration, a Brown-Sequard syndrome at the C6 level was found. Magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography led to a correct diagnosis and planning for decompression.


We operated on the patient through a combined anterior and posterior approach. After the patient underwent anterior discectomy with intersomatic arthrodesis, we performed posterior decompression. During the operation, we observed that the dura mater could not be separated from the ligamentum, so an en bloc excision of both structures was performed. Microscopic examination indicated that the excised ligamentum had calcification, and total integration of the dura mater into the structure of the ligamentum was demonstrated. To our knowledge, this circumstance has never been described before. A posterior C3-C7 arthrodesis was performed to prevent postoperative kyphosis. Recovery was successful, with total recovery from neurological deficits 4 months later.


Calcification of the ligamentum flavum is a progressive disease that starts early in life and becomes symptomatic later in life when spinal stenosis occurs. Magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography provide adequate diagnosis and allow proper surgical planning for decompression. The presence of hyperintense areas within the spinal cord parenchyma, in the absence of a traumatic antecedent, does not preclude a complete recovery.

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