Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Upper Spine FAQ

Question:

Our 45-year old son had decompressive surgery on his spine for a condition called OPLL. Right after the operation his legs were numb. He's back in surgery now. Can this kind of paralysis be reversed?

Answer:

OPLL stand for ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament. OPLL is a condition in which the long ligament along the back of the spinal column ossifies or turns to bone. Pressure on the spinal cord from this problem brings the patient to the surgeon for treatment. But removing the ligament isn't always easy or successful.

The spinal cord can become damaged during the operation. Paralysis can occur if the spine shifts its alignment. Surgeons in Japan report on 51 cases of OPLL treated by one of three operations. They report the best results when the spine was fused after removing the ligament and/or the bone around the spinal cord. Paralysis was rare when fusion was done.

Paralysis was reversed in some patient who had the ligament or bone removed but the spine wasn't fused. Fusing the spine in a more upright position took the pressure off the spinal cord and returned motor and sensory function in the legs.

In a few cases, reversal of paralysis wasn't possible. Most of these patients had severe spinal cord compression and damage before the first operation. Masashi Yamazaki, MD, PhD, et al. Clinical Results of Surgery for Thoracic Myelopathy Caused by Ossification of the Posterior Longitudinal Ligament: Operative Indication of Posterior Decompression with Instrumented Fusion. In Spine. June 1, 2006. Vol. 31. No. 13. Pp. 1452-1460.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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