Spinal Cord Infarction

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.

Spinal cord infarction is a relatively rare condition, affecting about 12 in 100,000 people in the population.

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
  • 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.

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.