Spinal cord infarction: Clinical and imaging insights from the periprocedural setting

Nicholas L. Zalewski, Alejandro A. Rabinstein, Karl N. Krecke, Robert D. Brown, Eelco F.M. Wijdicks, Brian G. Weinshenker, Derrick A. Doolittle, Eoin P. Flanagan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Objective: Describe the range of procedures associated with spinal cord infarction (SCI) as a complication of a medical/surgical procedure and define clinical and imaging characteristics that could be applied to help diagnose spontaneous SCI, where the diagnosis is often less secure. Methods: We used an institution-based search tool to identify patients evaluated at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN from 1997 to 2016 with a periprocedural SCI. We performed a descriptive analysis of clinical features, MRI and other laboratory findings, and outcome. Results: Seventy-five patients were identified with SCI related to an invasive or non-invasive surgery including: aortic aneurysm repair (49%); other aortic surgery (15%); and a variety of other procedures (e.g., cardiac surgery, spinal decompression, epidural injection, angiography, nerve block, embolization, other vascular surgery, thoracic surgery) (36%). Deficits were severe (66% para/quadriplegia) and maximal at first post-procedural evaluation in 61 patients (81%). Impaired dorsal column function was common on initial examination. Imaging features included classic findings of owl eyes or anterior pencil sign on MRI (70%), but several other T2-hyperintensity patterns were also seen. Gadolinium enhancement of the SCI and/or cauda equina was also common when assessed. Six patients (10%) had an initial normal MRI despite a severe deficit. Conclusions: Procedures associated with SCI are many, and this complication does not exclusively occur following aortic surgery. The clinical and radiologic findings that we describe with periprocedural SCI may be used in future studies to help distinguish spontaneous SCI from alternate causes of acute myelopathy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)162-167
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the neurological sciences
StatePublished - May 15 2018


  • Ischemic myelopathy
  • Spinal cord infarction
  • Spinal cord stroke
  • Vascular myelopathy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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