Spinal Cord in a PinchWhen the neck is extended suddenly, the spinal cord can get compressed. Serious damage to the spinal cord can also occur from car accidents, diving, and falls. Symptoms of pain, burning, and numbness in the arms and hands signal a condition called acute cervical central cord syndrome (ACCCS). Muscle weakness may also be present.
Treatment for this problem ranges from a "wait-and-see" approach to surgery. Doctors are looking for ways to tell who will get better without an operation and who needs surgery right away. A study in Japan reports that good predictors of full recovery have been found.
Younger age with a normal MRI is the best predictor. No bone fracture and no bleeding are also good factors. Swelling or other signs of hemorrhage are bad signs. How fast the patient improves in the first few weeks after injury is even more important than the signs and symptoms present at the time of the trauma.
Trauma to the neck and spinal cord without fracture or bleeding has a good result. Surgery isn't needed and the patient usually recovers fully within the first six weeks. This applies to patients with only arm symptoms. Symptoms in the arms and legs is different and requires different medical strategies.
Yoichiro Ishida, MD, PhD, and Toshikatsu Tominaga, MD. Predictors of Neurologic Recovery in Acute Central Cervical Cord Injury With Only Upper Extremity Impairment. In Spine. August 1, 2002. Vol. 27. No. 15. Pp. 1652-1658.
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