What is the prognosis of central cord syndrome (CCS)?

Updated: May 21, 2020
  • Author: Michelle J Alpert, MD; Chief Editor: Stephen Kishner, MD, MHA  more...
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The prognosis for patients with central cord syndrome (CCS) who are aged less than 50 years is good. Within a short time, 97% of these individuals recover, regaining the ability to ambulate and complete self-care tasks. Only 17% of patients aged more than 50 years recover.

Lenehan et al investigated the effects of age on clinical outcome in 50 patients with acute traumatic CCS. Patient ages at the time of injury were as follows: under 50 years, 13 patients; 50-70 years, 24 patients; and over 70 years, 13 patients. The incidence of sphincter disturbance among all patients was 42% on admission. Over a mean 42.2-month follow-up period, improvements in upper and lower limb motor scores, as well as in total sensory scores, occurred in patients in all age groups. However, the greatest improvements, absolute and relative, were found in patients under age 50 years. At follow-up, residual sphincter disturbance was found in 60% of patients over age 70 years but in no patients below age 70. The authors concluded that patients aged 70 years or above with acute traumatic CCS tend to have significantly poorer clinical outcomes than do younger patients with this syndrome. [42]

In addition to younger age, favorable long-term prognostic factors in CCS also include good hand function, evidence of early motor recovery, documented increases in upper and lower extremity strength during initial rehabilitation, and an absence of lower extremity neurologic impairment at admission to rehabilitation. [17, 43, 44, 45]

In a retrospective review of 15 individuals with CCS, using plain radiographs, cervical CT scans, and MRI scans from each patient, Miranda et al concluded that the length of spinal cord edema in a patient correlates with his/her initial degree of neurologic impairment. [46] The authors determined, therefore, that for patients with CCS, length of spinal cord edema may provide a significant indication of prognosis.

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