Last reviewed by Editorial Team on August 13th, 2018.
What is Anterior cord syndrome?
This medical condition occurs when the blood flow is interrupted or reduced in the artery that runs along the front portion of your spine. It is also known as anterior spinal artery syndrome, anterior spinal cord syndrome or Beck’s syndrome.
The symptoms are usually a complete loss of muscle strength below your level of injury due to the damage to the front (anterior) two-thirds of your spinal cord. This area contains the descending motor fibers in your corticospinal tract, which are any of the important motor nerves on each side of your central nervous system and extends from your brain to your spinal cord. It is responsible from the transmission of signals for bodily movement. In the other one-third of the back (posterior) of your spinal cord that is also supplied by the posterior spinal artery, the sensory loss is incomplete. In most patients with anterior cord syndrome their proprioception (joint position) and sensitivity to touch is preserved but their sensitivity to temperature and pain is lost.
Because the branches of the aorta, which supply your anterior spinal artery, insufficiencies within your aorta are the most common causes of anterior cord syndrome. This interrupted or reduced blood flow could be the result from:
- Spinal disc herniations – this is another name for slipped disc
- Flexion/compression injuries that could occur in a traffic accident or from diving and are considered traumatic injuries
- Bone fragments from a traumatic injury to your vertebra
- Damage to your aorta because of the interruption of blood flow from the vascular branches from your aorta that supplies the anterior spinal artery
- Aortic aneurysms – this is an enlargement of your aorta that is greater than one point five times the normal size and usually cause no symptoms until they rupture.
- Atherosclerosis – this is when your artery wall thickens because of the accumulation and invasion of white blood cells.
Within ten to fifteen hours after the initiation of the symptoms having an MRI can detect the location and magnitude of the damage from anterior cord syndrome.
As there is no cure the only treatment is rest, medication therapy, and surgery to help manage anterior cord syndrome. The treatment that will be used is determined based on the primary cause of this syndrome.
Unfortunately, once there has been damage to your spinal cord that has resulted in anterior cord syndrome there is usually no cure but the prognosis can be good if there recovery is progressive and evident during the first twenty-four hours. If you show no signs of sacral sensitivity to temperature or pinprick after twenty-four hours, the prognosis is poor for further functional recovery. The sacral is a bone at the bottom of your spine that is triangular in shape. Unfortunately, only ten to fifteen percent of all patients with anterior cord syndrome demonstrate functional recovery. Of all cord syndromes, anterior cord syndrome has the worst prognosis and has a mortality rate of approximately twenty percent.