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J Neurosurg. 2000 Jul;93(1 Suppl):15-20.

Acute cervical cord injury without fracture or dislocation of the spinal column.

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Department of Neurosurgery, Hokkaido Neurosurgical Memorial Hospital, Sapporo, Japan.



It is known that the spinal cord can sustain traumatic injury without associated injury of the spinal column in some conditions, such as a flexible spinal column or preexisting narrowed spinal canal. The purpose of this study was to characterize the clinical features and to understand the mechanisms in cases of acute cervical cord injury in which fracture or dislocation of the cervical spine has not occurred.


Eighty-nine patients who sustained an acute cervical cord injury were treated in our hospitals between 1990 and 1998. In 42 patients (47%) no bone injuries of the cervical spine were demonstrated, and this group was retrospectively analyzed. There were 35 men and seven women, aged 19 to 81 years (mean 58.9 years). The initial neurological examination indicated complete injury in five patients, whereas incomplete injury was demonstrated in 37. In the majority of the patients (90%) the authors found degenerative changes of the cervical spine such as spondylosis (22 cases) or ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament (16 cases). The mean sagittal diameter of the cervical spinal canal, as measured on computerized tomography scans, was significantly narrower than that obtained in the control patients. Magnetic resonance (MR) imaging revealed spinal cord compression in 93% and paravertebral soft-tissue injuries in 58% of the patients.


Degenerative changes of the cervical spine and developmental narrowing of the spinal canal are important preexisting factors. In the acute stage MR imaging is useful to understand the level and mechanisms of spinal cord injury. The fact that a significant number of the patients were found to have spinal cord compression despite the absence of bone injuries of the spinal column indicates that future investigations into surgical treatment of this type of injury are necessary.

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