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Spinal cord disorders 

Spinal cord disorders
Spinal cord disorders

David Bates

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date: 11 December 2019

Non-traumatic spinal cord disease may be caused by compression due to tumour, infection or haematoma, inflammation, infection or post-infection, metabolic disturbances, infarction, and degeneration. The diagnosis is often made easier by the clinical assessment: the patient’s age, the speed of onset of the disease, severity of the deficits, the pattern of motor and sensory involvement, and presence of pain and sphincter symptoms are all important in making an assessment of the site and likely nature of the spinal disease.

Investigations are obligatory to confirm a diagnosis and to direct therapy. MRI is the most useful investigation. It has largely replaced myelography which should now only be considered in patients with indwelling cardiac pacing wires. Additional investigations including examination of the cerebrospinal fluid, evoked potentials, and specific blood tests may be required and the value of plain X-rays, CT scan, and, in some instances, angiography should not be overlooked.

The remainder of this chapter will consider specific disorders, identifying pathology, clinical presentation, investigation, and management. Acute and chronic conditions are considered separately and those affecting the cauda equina, spinal root, and sphincters are considered in Chapter 29.

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