Myelomalacia is a pathological term referring to the softening of the spinal cord.
Hemorrhagic infarction (bleeding) of the spinal cord can occur as a sequela to acute injury, such as that caused by intervertebral disc extrusion (being forced or pressed out).
The disorder causes flaccid paraplegia (impairment of motor function in lower extremities), total areflexia (below normal or absence of reflexes) of the pelvic limbs and anus, loss of deep pain perception caudal (toward the coccyx, or tail) to the site of spinal cord injury, muscular atrophy (wasting away of muscle tissue), depressed mental state, and respiratory difficulty due to intercostal (muscles that run between the ribs) and diaphragmatic paralysis.
Gradual cranial migration of the neurological deficits (problems relating to the nervous system), is known as ascending syndrome and is said to be a typical feature of diffuse myelomalacia. Although clinical signs of myelomalacia are observed within the onset (start) of paraplegia, sometimes they may become evident only in the post-operative period, or even days after the onset of paraplegia. Death from myelomalacia may occur as a result of respiratory paralysis when the ascending lesion (abnormal damaged tissue) reaches the motor nuclei of the phrenic nerves (nerves between the C3-C5 region of the spine) in the cervical (neck) region.