What is the difference between a complete and incomplete spinal cord injury (PCI)?

Updated: Nov 01, 2018
  • Author: Lawrence S Chin, MD, FACS, FAANS; Chief Editor: Brian H Kopell, MD  more...
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Answer

One of the goals of the physician is to classify the pattern of the neurologic deficit into one of the cord syndromes. Spinal cord syndromes may be complete or incomplete. In most clinical scenarios, physicians should use a best-fit model to classify the spinal cord injury syndrome.

A complete cord syndrome is characterized clinically as complete loss of motor and sensory function below the level of the traumatic lesion. Incomplete cord syndromes have variable neurologic findings with partial loss of sensory and/or motor function below the level of injury; these include the anterior cord syndrome, the Brown-Séquard syndrome, and the central cord syndrome.


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