Central Cord Syndrome
(CCS; Central Cervical Cord Syndrome; Central Cord Injury; Injury, Central Cord; Paralysis, Upper Extremity; Syndrome, Central Cord; Syndrome, Central Cervical Cord; Upper Extremity Paralysis; Acute Central Cord Syndrome)
Central cord syndrome (CCS) is a type of incomplete spinal cord injury. CCS is marked by damage to the nerve fibers that bring messages from the brain to the body. This condition affects how you can use your arms and hands, and in some cases, your legs. There may be a loss of sensation and motor control.
CCS is caused by damage to the central part of the spinal cord. This damage may occur when the neck is hyperextended. This can be associated with:
- Syringomyelia (syrinx)—a cyst in the spinal cord
- Loss of blood supply to the area
- Bleeding in the spinal cord
Common causes of injury include:
- Trauma (such as car accident, sports injuries, falls)
- Degenerative condition of spine (often found in older people)
- Pre-existing condition, such as being born with a narrow spine
CSS can also be due to:
- Structural problems
- Tumors within the spinal cord
Males over 50 are more likely to have this condition. Risk factors that increase your chances of developing CCS include:
- Autoimmune disorder (such as multiple sclerosis, neuromyelitis optica)
- Pre-existing condition (such as narrow spinal canal, spinal cord disease, tethered cord)
- Participation in certain sports (such as wrestling, diving)
If you have any of these symptoms, do not assume it is due to CCS. These symptoms may be caused by other conditions.
- Unable to lift arms and hands completely, or numbness and tingling
- Difficulty with fine motor control (such as buttoning a shirt)
- Muscle weakness in legs, difficulty walking
- Loss of bladder control
If CCS is due to trauma, symptoms usually come quickly. Sometimes, however, symptoms may come more slowly.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. A neurologic exam may also be done.
Your doctor may want pictures of your spinal cord. These can be taken with:
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Rehab can take a long time for some patients. If you are young and have more muscle function, you have a better chance of recovering.
Treatment options include the following:
In most cases, surgery is not needed. Often treatment involves:
- Restricting neck movement
- Giving steroids
- Doing physical and occupational therapy
To help reduce your chance of getting a spinal cord injury, take the following steps:
- Avoid diving if you do not know how deep the water is.
- Always wear a seatbelt.
- Do not drink and drive. Do not ride with someone who has been drinking.
- Remove obstacles in your house, like throw rugs, that could cause falls.
- Use safe methods and proper equipment when playing sports.
- Secure firearms.
Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
National Spinal Cord Injury Association
Canadian & American Spinal Research Organization
Spinal Cord Research Centre
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NINDS central cord syndrome information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/central_cord/central_cord.htm. Updated September 27, 2011. Accessed November 27, 2012.
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Spinal cord injury center. American Association of Neurological Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.spineuniverse.com/displayarticle.php/spinal-cord-3134.html. Updated November 9, 2009. Accessed November 27, 2012.
Spinal cord injury (SCI): prevention tips. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/factsheets/sciprevention.htm. Updated November 21, 2012. Accessed November 27, 2012.
Visocchi M, Di Rocco F, et al. Subacute clinical onset of post-traumatic myelopathy. Acta Neurochir. 2003;145: 799-804.
Last reviewed December 2013 by Rimas Lukas, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.