What is the prognosis of spinal cord infarction?

Updated: Jul 26, 2018
  • Author: Thomas F Scott, MD; Chief Editor: Helmi L Lutsep, MD  more...
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Spinal cord ischemia (and its irreversible tissue injury of infarction) is a myelopathy, generally associated with substantial motor, sensory, and bladder and/or bowel dysfunction. The short-term mortality rate is 20-25% over the first month following onset of symptoms. The overall life expectancy is diminished because of the vascular, infectious, and other medical complications. The striking improvement in medical care and rehabilitation has led to an improvement in quality of life for patients with spinal cord strokes since World War II. A 2012 study of 115 patients with spinal cord infarct found that patients experienced gradual improvement after the event. At 3-year follow-up, 41% of patients using a wheelchair at hospital dismissal were walking and 33% of patients catheterized at dismissal were catheter-free. [21]

Because the extent of damage is less than that sustained in most traumatic cord injuries, and the potential for recovery is greater because ischemia is reversible in part, these patients may have better function than patients with traumatic cord injuries though the prognosis for substantial motor recovery should be guarded.

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