The significance of dorsal migration of the cord after extensive cervical laminectomy for patients with traumatic central cord syndrome

Lion Levi, Aizik Wolf, Stuart Mirvis, Daniel Rigamonti, Massimo S. Fianfaca, Mark Monasky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Central cord syndrome (CCS) resulting from traumatic cervical injury is often associated with cervical stenosis and/or spondylosis. The efficacy of multilevel laminectomy in the treatment of this condition has been controversial. The objective of this study was to validate by magnetic resonance (MR) imaging the occurrence of dorsal cord migration after extensive laminectomy for patients with the clinical syndrome of central cord damage and its relationship to the shortterm outcome. During a 28-month period, the authors evaluated 20 patients (mean age 54 years) who sustained CCS after cervical spine trauma. Pre- and postoperative MR imaging assessed the adequacy of cervical cord decompression by multilevel laminectomy. All patients had cervical canal stenosis with complete obliteration of the anterior subarachnoid space over multiple levels. Seventeen patients initially had CCS of different degrees of severity. One had no motor deficit and two had motor complete with sensory deficits greater in their arms. Laminectomy. generally from C2 to C7 without facetectomv. was performed after plateau of neurological recovery (mean 17 days postinjury). Neurological assessment 3 months after operation revealed improvement in 12. stable function in 7. and progression of deficit in one with no mortality. The postoperative midsagittal MR images demonstrated adequate decompression with restoration of anterior cerebrospinal fluid space and posterior cord migration in 12 patients (60% of the 20), but only 8 of them also had improved function. MR imaging demonstrated that, in the presence of multilevel spondylosis/stenosis, laminectomy may provide adequate spinal cord decompression in patients with traumatic CCS. The lack of correlation between MR-documented decompression and ultimate level of recovery' of function may be associated with the already established cord damage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)289-295
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of spinal disorders
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • Central cord syndrome
  • Cervical spinal cord injury
  • Functional recovery
  • Laminectomy
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Myelopathy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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