Occurs when blood flow is reduced or interrupted in the anterior spinal artery that runs along the anterior (front) portion of the spinal cord. This interruption in blood flow may be the result of bone fragments from traumatic injury to the vertebra, spinal disc herniations or flexion/compression injury. Damage to the aorta may also be a cause of anterior cord syndrome due to the interruption of blood flow from vascular branches from the aorta supplying the anterior spinal artery.
Symptoms of anterior spinal cord syndrome are normally complete loss of muscle strength below the level of injury due to damage to the anterior 2/3 of the spinal cord containing descending motor fibres in the corticospinal tract. Because other ascending sensory fibres are located in the remaining 1/3 of the posterior area of the spinal cord supplied by the posterior spinal artery, sensory loss is incomplete. In most patients sensitivity to pain and temperature are lost whilst sensitivity to touch and proprioception (joint position) are preserved.
Is there any treatment?
Once damage to the spinal cord has occurred resulting in anterior cord syndrome, there is usually no cure.
What is the prognosis?
Anterior cord syndrome prognosis is good if recovery is evident and progressive during first 24 hours. If no signs of sacral sensibility to pinprick or temp are present after 24 hours, prognosis for further functional recovery is poor. Only 10 to 15% of patients demonstrate functional recovery.