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Spinal cord infarction, also known as spinal stroke, is a stroke that occurs either within the arteries that supply the spinal cord or the cord itself. The leading cause is arteriosclerosis, a closing or thickening of arteries which are major suppliers to the spinal cord.
More specifically, the type of arteriosclerosis is called atheromatosis. In these cases, an accumulation of lipid-containing matter forms within the arteries. The symptoms of spinal stroke may include paralysis, loss of deep tendon reflexes, and intermittent back pain which either feels sharp or burning or both. Other possible symptoms are loss of pain and temperature sensation, incontinence, aching pain down through the legs, and weakness in the legs.
Spinal stroke can can also be accompanied by initially limp, floppy muscles that become spastic or “tight” over the next brief span of time (sometimes several days), reflexes which may go from being unresponsive to becoming overactive, or a loss of the sense of temperature and pain.
Depending on the mechanism underlying the spinal cord infarction, the symptoms may begin abruptly and acutely or slowly and gradually. Specific symptoms depend on where in the spinal cord the infarction occurs.
The following are some conditions which may result in occlusion of the spinal arteries and spinal cord infarction:
* atherosclerosis of the aorta
* a dissecting aoric aneurysm
* an abscess or tumor impinging on an artery
* severe low blood pressure
* blockages in blood vessels which are smaller
The following types of blockages may be due to polyarteritis nodosa, diabetes, systemic lupus erythematosus, neurosyphilis, tuberculous meningitis or pneumococcal meningitis:
* blood clots
In very rare cases, incidents of spinal cord infarction have been caused by situations in which there is pressure placed on the spine. These situations can include back injury, exercise and pregnancy.
In these cases, the nucleus pulposus or core of a spinal disc extrudes out of the disc. This enters into a spinal artery, and can result in a blood flow blockage.