Delayed post-traumatic spinal cord infarction in an adult after minor head and neck trauma: a case report
1 Department of Neurosurgery, The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, 7703 Floyd Curl Drive, San Antonio, TX, 78229-3900, USA
2 Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office, 1213 Sabine Street, Austin, TX, 78701, USA
Journal of Medical Case Reports 2012, 6:314 doi:10.1186/1752-1947-6-314Published: 19 September 2012
Delayed post-traumatic spinal cord infarction is a devastating complication described in children. In adults, spinal cord ischemia after cardiovascular interventions, scoliosis correction, or profound hypotension has been reported in the literature. However, delayed spinal cord infarction after minor head trauma has not been described yet.
We report the case of a 45-year-old Hispanic man who had a minor head trauma. He was admitted to our hospital because of paresthesias in his hands and neck pain. A radiological workup showed cervical spinal canal stenosis and chronic cervical spondylotic myelopathy. Twelve hours after admission, our patient became unresponsive and, despite full resuscitation efforts, died. The autopsy revealed spinal cord necrosis involving the entire cervical spinal cord and upper thoracic region.
This case illustrates the extreme fragility of spinal cord hemodynamics in patients with chronic cervical spinal canal stenosis, in which any further perturbations, such as cervical hyperflexion related to a minor head injury, can have catastrophic consequences. Furthermore, the delayed onset of spinal cord infarction in this case shows that meticulous maintenance of blood pressure in the acute post-traumatic period is of paramount importance, even in patients with minimal post-traumatic symptoms.