The spinal cord is a long, thin, tubular structure made up of nervous tissue, that extends from the medulla oblongata in the brainstem to the lumbar region of the vertebral column. It encloses the central canal of the spinal cord that contains cerebrospinal fluid. The brain and spinal cord together make up the central nervous system (CNS). In humans, the spinal cord begins at the occipital bone where it passes through the foramen magnum, and meets and enters the spinal canal at the beginning of the cervical vertebrae. The spinal cord extends down to between the first and second lumbar vertebrae where it ends. The enclosing bony vertebral column protects the relatively shorter spinal cord. It is around 45 cm (18 in) in men and around 43 cm (17 in) long in women. Also, the spinal cord has a varying width, ranging from 13 mm (1⁄2 in) thick in the cervical and lumbar regions to 6.4 mm (1⁄4 in) thick in the thoracic area.
The spinal cord functions primarily in the transmission of nerve signals from the motor cortex to the body, and from the afferent fibers of the sensory neurons to the sensory cortex. It is also a center for coordinating many reflexes and contains reflex arcs that can independently control reflexes. It is also the location of groups of spinal interneurons that make up the neural circuits known as central pattern generators. These circuits are responsible for controlling motor instructions for rhythmic movements such as walking.
The spinal cord (in yellow) connects the brain to nerves throughout the body.
|Part of||Central nervous system|
The spinal cord is the main pathway for information connecting the brain and peripheral nervous system. Much shorter than its protecting spinal column, the human spinal cord originates in the brainstem, passes through the foramen magnum, and continues through to the conus medullaris near the second lumbar vertebra before terminating in a fibrous extension known as the filum terminale.
It is about 45 cm (18 in) long in men and around 43 cm (17 in) in women, ovoid-shaped, and is enlarged in the cervical and lumbar regions. The cervical enlargement, stretching from the C5 to T1 vertebrae, is where sensory input comes from and motor output goes to the arms and trunk. The lumbar enlargement, located between L1 and S3, handles sensory input and motor output coming from and going to the legs.
The spinal cord is continuous with the caudal portion of the medulla, running from the base of the skull to the body of the first lumbar vertebra. It does not run the full length of the vertebral column in adults. It is made of 31 segments from which branch one pair of sensory nerve roots and one pair of motor nerve roots. The nerve roots then merge into bilaterally symmetrical pairs of spinal nerves. The peripheral nervous system is made up of these spinal roots, nerves, and ganglia.
The dorsal roots are afferent fascicles, receiving sensory information from the skin, muscles, and visceral organs to be relayed to the brain. The roots terminate in dorsal root ganglia, which are composed of the cell bodies of the corresponding neurons. Ventral roots consist of efferent fibers that arise from motor neurons whose cell bodies are found in the ventral (or anterior) gray horns of the spinal cord.
The spinal cord (and brain) are protected by three layers of tissue or membranes called meninges, that surround the canal . The dura mater is the outermost layer, and it forms a tough protective coating. Between the dura mater and the surrounding bone of the vertebrae is a space called the epidural space. The epidural space is filled with adipose tissue, and it contains a network of blood vessels. The arachnoid mater, the middle protective layer, is named for its open, spiderweb-like appearance. The space between the arachnoid and the underlying pia mater is called the subarachnoid space. The subarachnoid space contains cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which can be sampled with a lumbar puncture, or "spinal tap" procedure. The delicate pia mater, the innermost protective layer, is tightly associated with the surface of the spinal cord. The cord is stabilized within the dura mater by the connecting denticulate ligaments, which extend from the enveloping pia mater laterally between the dorsal and ventral roots. The dural sac ends at the vertebral level of the second sacral vertebra.
In cross-section, the peripheral region of the cord contains neuronal white matter tracts containing sensory and motor axons. Internal to this peripheral region is the grey matter, which contains the nerve cell bodies arranged in the three grey columns that give the region its butterfly-shape. This central region surrounds the central canal, which is an extension of the fourth ventricle and contains cerebrospinal fluid.
The spinal cord is elliptical in cross section, being compressed dorsolaterally. Two prominent grooves, or sulci, run along its length. The posterior median sulcus is the groove in the dorsal side, and the anterior median fissure is the groove in the ventral side.
The human spinal cord is divided into segments where pairs of spinal nerves (mixed; sensory and motor) form. Six to eight motor nerve rootlets branch out of right and left ventro lateral sulci in a very orderly manner. Nerve rootlets combine to form nerve roots. Likewise, sensory nerve rootlets form off right and left dorsal lateral sulci and form sensory nerve roots. The ventral (motor) and dorsal (sensory) roots combine to form spinal nerves (mixed; motor and sensory), one on each side of the spinal cord. Spinal nerves, with the exception of C1 and C2, form inside the intervertebral foramen (IVF). These rootlets form the demarcation between the central and peripheral nervous systems.
The grey column, (as three regions of grey columns) in the center of the cord, is shaped like a butterfly and consists of cell bodies of interneurons, motor neurons, neuroglia cells and unmyelinated axons. The anterior and posterior grey column present as projections of the grey matter and are also known as the horns of the spinal cord. Together, the grey columns and the gray commissure form the "grey H."
The white matter is located outside of the grey matter and consists almost totally of myelinated motor and sensory axons. "Columns" of white matter carry information either up or down the spinal cord.
The spinal cord proper terminates in a region called the conus medullaris, while the pia mater continues as an extension called the filum terminale, which anchors the spinal cord to the coccyx. The cauda equina ("horse's tail") is a collection of nerves inferior to the conus medullaris that continue to travel through the vertebral column to the coccyx. The cauda equina forms because the spinal cord stops growing in length at about age four, even though the vertebral column continues to lengthen until adulthood. This results in sacral spinal nerves originating in the upper lumbar region.
Within the CNS, nerve cell bodies are generally organized into functional clusters, called nuclei. Axons within the CNS are grouped into tracts.
There are 31 spinal cord nerve segments in a human spinal cord:
In the fetus, vertebral segments correspond with spinal cord segments. However, because the vertebral column grows longer than the spinal cord, spinal cord segments do not correspond to vertebral segments in the adult, particularly in the lower spinal cord. For example, lumbar and sacral spinal cord segments are found between vertebral levels T9 and L2, and the spinal cord ends around the L1/L2 vertebral level, forming a structure known as the conus medullaris.
Although the spinal cord cell bodies end around the L1/L2 vertebral level, the spinal nerves for each segment exit at the level of the corresponding vertebra. For the nerves of the lower spinal cord, this means that they exit the vertebral column much lower (more caudally) than their roots. As these nerves travel from their respective roots to their point of exit from the vertebral column, the nerves of the lower spinal segments form a bundle called the cauda equina.
There are two regions where the spinal cord enlarges:
The spinal cord is made from part of the neural tube during development. There are four stages of the spinal cord that arises from the neural tube: The neural plate, neural fold, neural tube, and the spinal cord. Neural differentiation occurs within the spinal cord portion of the tube. As the neural tube begins to develop, the notochord begins to secrete a factor known as Sonic hedgehog or SHH. As a result, the floor plate then also begins to secrete SHH, and this will induce the basal plate to develop motor neurons. During the maturation of the neural tube, its lateral walls thicken and form a longtitudinal groove called the sulcus limitans. This extends the length of the spinal cord into dorsal and ventral portions as well. Meanwhile, the overlying ectoderm secretes bone morphogenetic protein (BMP). This induces the roof plate to begin to secrete BMP, which will induce the alar plate to develop sensory neurons. Opposing gradients of such morphogens as BMP and SHH form different domains of dividing cells along the dorsal ventral axis. Dorsal root ganglion neurons differentiate from neural crest progenitors. As the dorsal and ventral column cells proliferate, the lumen of the neural tube narrows to form the small central canal of the spinal cord. The alar plate and the basal plate are separated by the sulcus limitans. Additionally, the floor plate also secretes netrins. The netrins act as chemoattractants to decussation of pain and temperature sensory neurons in the alar plate across the anterior white commissure, where they then ascend towards the thalamus. Following the closure of the caudal neuropore and formation of the brain's ventricles that contain the choroid plexus tissue, the central canal of the caudal spinal cord is filled with cerebrospinal fluid.
Earlier findings by Viktor Hamburger and Rita Levi-Montalcini in the chick embryo have been confirmed by more recent studies which have demonstrated that the elimination of neuronal cells by programmed cell death (PCD) is necessary for the correct assembly of the nervous system.
Overall, spontaneous embryonic activity has been shown to play a role in neuron and muscle development but is probably not involved in the initial formation of connections between spinal neurons.
The spinal cord is supplied with blood by three arteries that run along its length starting in the brain, and many arteries that approach it through the sides of the spinal column. The three longitudinal arteries are the anterior spinal artery, and the right and left posterior spinal arteries. These travel in the subarachnoid space and send branches into the spinal cord. They form anastamoses (connections) via the anterior and posterior segmental medullary arteries, which enter the spinal cord at various points along its length. The actual blood flow caudally through these arteries, derived from the posterior cerebral circulation, is inadequate to maintain the spinal cord beyond the cervical segments.
The major contribution to the arterial blood supply of the spinal cord below the cervical region comes from the radially arranged posterior and anterior radicular arteries, which run into the spinal cord alongside the dorsal and ventral nerve roots, but with one exception do not connect directly with any of the three longitudinal arteries. These intercostal and lumbar radicular arteries arise from the aorta, provide major anastomoses and supplement the blood flow to the spinal cord. In humans the largest of the anterior radicular arteries is known as the artery of Adamkiewicz, or anterior radicularis magna (ARM) artery, which usually arises between L1 and L2, but can arise anywhere from T9 to L5. Impaired blood flow through these critical radicular arteries, especially during surgical procedures that involve abrupt disruption of blood flow through the aorta for example during aortic aneursym repair, can result in spinal cord infarction and paraplegia.
Somatosensory organization is divided into the dorsal column-medial lemniscus tract (the touch/proprioception/vibration sensory pathway) and the anterolateral system, or ALS (the pain/temperature sensory pathway). Both sensory pathways use three different neurons to get information from sensory receptors at the periphery to the cerebral cortex. These neurons are designated primary, secondary and tertiary sensory neurons. In both pathways, primary sensory neuron cell bodies are found in the dorsal root ganglia, and their central axons project into the spinal cord.
In the dorsal column-medial leminiscus tract, a primary neuron's axon enters the spinal cord and then enters the dorsal column. If the primary axon enters below spinal level T6, the axon travels in the fasciculus gracilis, the medial part of the column. If the axon enters above level T6, then it travels in the fasciculus cuneatus, which is lateral to the fasciculus gracilis. Either way, the primary axon ascends to the lower medulla, where it leaves its fasciculus and synapses with a secondary neuron in one of the dorsal column nuclei: either the nucleus gracilis or the nucleus cuneatus, depending on the pathway it took. At this point, the secondary axon leaves its nucleus and passes anteriorly and medially. The collection of secondary axons that do this are known as internal arcuate fibers. The internal arcuate fibers decussate and continue ascending as the contralateral medial lemniscus. Secondary axons from the medial lemniscus finally terminate in the ventral posterolateral nucleus (VPLN) of the thalamus, where they synapse with tertiary neurons. From there, tertiary neurons ascend via the posterior limb of the internal capsule and end in the primary sensory cortex.
The proprioception of the lower limbs differs from the upper limbs and upper trunk. There is a four-neuron pathway for lower limb proprioception. This pathway initially follows the dorsal spino-cerebellar pathway. It is arranged as follows: proprioceptive receptors of lower limb → peripheral process → dorsal root ganglion → central process → Clarke's column → 2nd order neuron → medulla oblogata (Caudate nucleus) → 3rd order neuron → VPLN of thalamus → 4th order neuron → posterior limb of internal capsule → corona radiata → sensory area of cerebrum.
The anterolateral system works somewhat differently. Its primary neurons axons enter the spinal cord and then ascend one to two levels before synapsing in the substantia gelatinosa. The tract that ascends before synapsing is known as Lissauer's tract. After synapsing, secondary axons decussate and ascend in the anterior lateral portion of the spinal cord as the spinothalamic tract. This tract ascends all the way to the VPLN, where it synapses on tertiary neurons. Tertiary neuronal axons then travel to the primary sensory cortex via the posterior limb of the internal capsule.
Some of the "pain fibers" in the ALS deviate from their pathway towards the VPLN. In one such deviation, axons travel towards the reticular formation in the midbrain. The reticular formation then projects to a number of places including the hippocampus (to create memories about the pain), the centromedian nucleus (to cause diffuse, non-specific pain) and various parts of the cortex. Additionally, some ALS axons project to the periaqueductal gray in the pons, and the axons forming the periaqueductal gray then project to the nucleus raphes magnus, which projects back down to where the pain signal is coming from and inhibits it. This helps control the sensation of pain to some degree.
|C3, C4, C5||Supply diaphragm (mostly C4)|
|C5, C6||Move shoulder, raise arm (deltoid); flex elbow (biceps)|
|C6||externally rotate (supinate) the arm|
|C6, C7||Extend elbow and wrist (triceps and wrist extensors); pronate wrist|
|C7, C8||Flex wrist; supply small muscles of the hand|
|T1–T6||Intercostals and trunk above the waist|
|L1–L4||Flex hip joint|
|L2, L3, L4||Adduct thigh; Extend leg at the knee (quadriceps femoris)|
|L4, L5, S1||abduct thigh; Flex leg at the knee (hamstrings); Dorsiflex foot (tibialis anterior); Extend toes|
|L5, S1, S2||Extend leg at the hip (gluteus maximus); flex foot and flex toes|
The corticospinal tract serves as the motor pathway for upper motor neuronal signals coming from the cerebral cortex and from primitive brainstem motor nuclei.
Cortical upper motor neurons originate from Brodmann areas 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6 and then descend in the posterior limb of the internal capsule, through the crus cerebri, down through the pons, and to the medullary pyramids, where about 90% of the axons cross to the contralateral side at the decussation of the pyramids. They then descend as the lateral corticospinal tract. These axons synapse with lower motor neurons in the ventral horns of all levels of the spinal cord. The remaining 10% of axons descend on the ipsilateral side as the ventral corticospinal tract. These axons also synapse with lower motor neurons in the ventral horns. Most of them will cross to the contralateral side of the cord (via the anterior white commissure) right before synapsing.
The midbrain nuclei include four motor tracts that send upper motor neuronal axons down the spinal cord to lower motor neurons. These are the rubrospinal tract, the vestibulospinal tract, the tectospinal tract and the reticulospinal tract. The rubrospinal tract descends with the lateral corticospinal tract, and the remaining three descend with the anterior corticospinal tract.
The function of lower motor neurons can be divided into two different groups: the lateral corticospinal tract and the anterior cortical spinal tract. The lateral tract contains upper motor neuronal axons which synapse on dorsal lateral (DL) lower motor neurons. The DL neurons are involved in distal limb control. Therefore, these DL neurons are found specifically only in the cervical and lumbosacral enlargements within the spinal cord. There is no decussation in the lateral corticospinal tract after the decussation at the medullary pyramids.
The anterior corticospinal tract descends ipsilaterally in the anterior column, where the axons emerge and either synapse on lower ventromedial (VM) motor neurons in the ventral horn ipsilaterally or descussate at the anterior white commissure where they synapse on VM lower motor neurons contralaterally . The tectospinal, vestibulospinal and reticulospinal descend ipsilaterally in the anterior column but do not synapse across the anterior white commissure. Rather, they only synapse on VM lower motor neurons ipsilaterally. The VM lower motor neurons control the large, postural muscles of the axial skeleton. These lower motor neurons, unlike those of the DL, are located in the ventral horn all the way throughout the spinal cord.
Proprioceptive information in the body travels up the spinal cord via three tracks. Below L2, the proprioceptive information travels up the spinal cord in the ventral spinocerebellar tract. Also known as the anterior spinocerebellar tract, sensory receptors take in the information and travel into the spinal cord. The cell bodies of these primary neurons are located in the dorsal root ganglia. In the spinal cord, the axons synapse and the secondary neuronal axons decussates and then travel up to the superior cerebellar peduncle where they decussate again. From here, the information is brought to deep nuclei of the cerebellum including the fastigial and interposed nuclei.
From the levels of L2 to T1, proprioceptive information enters the spinal cord and ascends ipsilaterally, where it synapses in Clarke's nucleus. The secondary neuronal axons continue to ascend ipsilaterally and then pass into the cerebellum via the inferior cerebellar peduncle. This tract is known as the dorsal spinocerebellar tract.
From above T1, proprioceptive primary axons enter the spinal cord and ascend ipsilaterally until reaching the accessory cuneate nucleus, where they synapse. The secondary axons pass into the cerebellum via the inferior cerebellar peduncle where again, these axons synapse on cerebellar deep nuclei. This tract is known as the cuneocerebellar tract.
Motor information travels from the brain down the spinal cord via descending spinal cord tracts. Descending tracts involve two neurons: the upper motor neuron (UMN) and lower motor neuron (LMN). A nerve signal travels down the upper motor neuron until it synapses with the lower motor neuron in the spinal cord. Then, the lower motor neuron conducts the nerve signal to the spinal root where efferent nerve fibers carry the motor signal toward the target muscle. The descending tracts are composed of white matter. There are several descending tracts serving different functions. The corticospinal tracts (lateral and anterior) are responsible for coordinated limb movements.
Spinal cord injuries can be caused by trauma to the spinal column (stretching, bruising, applying pressure, severing, laceration, etc.). The vertebral bones or intervertebral disks can shatter, causing the spinal cord to be punctured by a sharp fragment of bone. Usually, victims of spinal cord injuries will suffer loss of feeling in certain parts of their body. In milder cases, a victim might only suffer loss of hand or foot function. More severe injuries may result in paraplegia, tetraplegia (also known as quadriplegia), or full body paralysis below the site of injury to the spinal cord.
Damage to upper motor neuron axons in the spinal cord results in a characteristic pattern of ipsilateral deficits. These include hyperreflexia, hypertonia and muscle weakness. Lower motor neuronal damage results in its own characteristic pattern of deficits. Rather than an entire side of deficits, there is a pattern relating to the myotome affected by the damage. Additionally, lower motor neurons are characterized by muscle weakness, hypotonia, hyporeflexia and muscle atrophy.
Spinal shock and neurogenic shock can occur from a spinal injury. Spinal shock is usually temporary, lasting only for 24–48 hours, and is a temporary absence of sensory and motor functions. Neurogenic shock lasts for weeks and can lead to a loss of muscle tone due to disuse of the muscles below the injured site.
The two areas of the spinal cord most commonly injured are the cervical spine (C1–C7) and the lumbar spine (L1–L5). (The notation C1, C7, L1, L5 refer to the location of a specific vertebra in either the cervical, thoracic, or lumbar region of the spine.) Spinal cord injury can also be non-traumatic and caused by disease (transverse myelitis, polio, spina bifida, Friedreich's ataxia, spinal cord tumor, spinal stenosis etc.)
In the U.S., 10,000–12,000 people become paralyzed annually as a result of various injuries to the spinal cord.
Real or suspected spinal cord injuries need immediate immobilisation including that of the head. Scans will be needed to assess the injury. A steroid, methylprednisolone, can be of help as can physical therapy and possibly antioxidants. Treatments need to focus on limiting post-injury cell death, promoting cell regeneration, and replacing lost cells. Regeneration is facilitated by maintaining electric transmission in neural elements.
The spinal cord ends at the level of vertebrae L1–L2, while the subarachnoid space —the compartment that contains cerebrospinal fluid— extends down to the lower border of S2. Lumbar punctures in adults are usually performed between L3–L5 (cauda equina level) in order to avoid damage to the spinal cord. In the fetus, the spinal cord extends the full length of the spine and regresses as the body grows.
Diagrams of the spinal cord.
Cross-sections of the spinal cord at varying levels.
An overview of the spinal cord.
The anterior grey column (also called the anterior cornu, anterior horn of spinal cord or ventral horn) is the front column of grey matter in the spinal cord. It is one of the three grey columns. The anterior grey column contains motor neurons that affect the skeletal muscles while the posterior grey column receives information regarding touch and sensation. The anterior grey column is the column where the cell bodies of alpha motor neurons are located.Anterior spinal artery
In human anatomy, the anterior spinal artery is the artery that supplies the anterior portion of the spinal cord. It arises from branches of the vertebral arteries and courses along the anterior aspect of the spinal cord. It is reinforced by several contributory arteries, especially the artery of Adamkiewicz.Central nervous system
The central nervous system (CNS) is the part of the nervous system consisting of the brain and spinal cord. The CNS is so named because it integrates the received information and coordinates and influences the activity of all parts of the bodies of bilaterally symmetric animals—that is, all multicellular animals except sponges and radially symmetric animals such as jellyfish—and it contains the majority of the nervous system. Many consider the retina and the optic nerve (cranial nerve II), as well as the olfactory nerves (cranial nerve I) and olfactory epithelium as parts of the CNS, synapsing directly on brain tissue without intermediate ganglia. As such, the olfactory epithelium is the only central nervous tissue in direct contact with the environment, which opens up for therapeutic treatments.
The CNS is contained within the dorsal body cavity, with the brain housed in the cranial cavity and the spinal cord in the spinal canal. In vertebrates, the brain is protected by the skull, while the spinal cord is protected by the vertebrae. The brain and spinal cord are both enclosed in the meninges. Within the CNS, the interneuronal space is filled with a large amount of supporting non-nervous cells called neuroglial cells.Foix–Alajouanine syndrome
Foix–Alajouanine syndrome is a disorder caused by an arteriovenous malformation of the spinal cord. The patients present with symptoms indicating spinal cord involvement (paralysis of arms and legs, numbness and loss of sensation and sphincter dysfunction), and pathological examination reveals disseminated nerve cell death in the spinal cord and abnormally dilated and tortuous vessels situated on the surface of the spinal cord. Surgical treatment can be tried in some cases. If surgical intervention is contraindicated, corticosteroids may be used.
The condition is named after Charles Foix and Théophile Alajouanine.Marginal nucleus of spinal cord
The marginal nucleus of spinal cord, or posteromarginal nucleus, or Substantia Marginalis, Rexed lamina I, is located at the most dorsal aspect of the dorsal horn of the spinal cord. The neurons located here receive input primarily from Lissauer's tract and relay information related to pain and temperature sensation. Pain sensation relayed here cannot be modulated, e.g. pain from burning the skin.Motor neuron
A motor neuron (or motoneuron) is a neuron whose cell body is located in the motor cortex, brainstem or the spinal cord, and whose axon (fiber) projects to the spinal cord or outside of the spinal cord to directly or indirectly control effector organs, mainly muscles and glands. There are two types of motor neuron – upper motor neurons and lower motor neurons. Axons from upper motor neurons synapse onto interneurons in the spinal cord and occasionally directly onto lower motor neurons. The axons from the lower motor neurons are efferent nerve fibers that carry signals from the spinal cord to the effectors. Types of lower motor neurons are alpha motor neurons, beta motor neurons, and gamma motor neurons.
A single motor neuron may innervate many muscle fibres and a muscle fibre can undergo many action potentials in the time taken for a single muscle twitch. As a result, if an action potential arrives before a twitch has completed, the twitches can superimpose on one another, either through summation or a tetanic contraction. In summation, the muscle is stimulated repetitively such that additional action potentials coming from the somatic nervous system arrive before the end of the twitch. The twitches thus superimpose on one another, leading to a force greater than that of a single twitch. A tetanic contraction is caused by constant, very high frequency stimulation - the action potentials come at such a rapid rate that individual twitches are indistinguishable, and tension rises smoothly eventually reaching a plateau.Myelitis
Myelitis is inflammation of the spinal cord which can disrupt the normal responses from the brain to the rest of the body, and from the rest of the body to the brain. Inflammation in the spinal cord, can cause the myelin and axon to be damaged resulting in symptoms such as paralysis and sensory loss. Myelitis is classified to several categories depending on the area or the cause of the lesion; however, any inflammatory attack on the spinal cord is often referred to as transverse myelitis.Myelopathy
Myelopathy describes any neurologic deficit related to the spinal cord. When due to trauma, it is known as (acute) spinal cord injury. When inflammatory, it is known as myelitis. Disease that is vascular in nature is known as vascular myelopathy. The most common form of myelopathy in human, cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM), is caused by arthritic changes (spondylosis) of the cervical spine, which result in narrowing of the spinal canal (spinal stenosis) ultimately causing compression of the spinal cord. In Asian populations, spinal cord compression often occurs due to a different, inflammatory process affecting the posterior longitudinal ligament.Paraplegia
Paraplegia is an impairment in motor or sensory function of the lower extremities. The word comes from Ionic Greek παραπληγίη "half-striking". It is usually caused by spinal cord injury or a congenital condition that affects the neural (brain) elements of the spinal canal. The area of the spinal canal that is affected in paraplegia is either the thoracic, lumbar, or sacral regions. If four limbs are affected by paralysis, tetraplegia or quadriplegia is the correct term. If only one limb is affected, the correct term is monoplegia.
Spastic paraplegia is a form of paraplegia defined by spasticity of the affected muscles, rather than flaccid paralysis.
The American Spinal Injury Association classifies spinal cord injury severity. ASIA A being the complete loss of sensory function and motor skills below the injury. ASIA B is having some sensory function below the injury, but no motor function. ASIA C some motor function below level of injury, but half the muscles cannot move against gravity. ASIA D, more than half of the muscles below the level of injury can move against gravity. ASIA E which is the restoration of all neurologic function.Posterior grey column
The posterior grey column (posterior cornu, dorsal horn, spinal dorsal horn posterior horn) of the spinal cord is one of the three grey columns of the spinal cord. It receives several types of sensory information from the body, including fine touch, proprioception, and vibration. This information is sent from receptors of the skin, bones, and joints through sensory neurons whose cell bodies lie in the dorsal root ganglion.Reflex arc
A reflex arc is a neural pathway that controls a reflex. In vertebrates, most sensory neurons do not pass directly into the brain, but synapse in the spinal cord. This allows for faster reflex actions to occur by activating spinal motor neurons without the delay of routing signals through the brain. However, the brain will receive the sensory input while the reflex is being carried out and the analysis of the signal takes place after the reflex action.
There are two types: autonomic reflex arc (affecting inner organs) and somatic reflex arc (affecting muscles). However, autonomic reflexes sometimes involve the spinal cord and some somatic reflexes are mediated more by the brain than the spinal cord.During a somatic reflex, nerve signals travel along the following pathway:
Somatic receptors in the skin, muscles and tendons
Afferent nerve fibers carry signals from the somatic receptors to the posterior horn of the spinal cord or to the brainstem
An integrating center, the point at which the neurons that compose the gray matter of the spinal cord or brainstem synapse
Efferent nerve fibers carry motor nerve signals from the anterior horn to the muscles
Effector muscle innervated by the efferent nerve fiber carries out the response.A reflex arc, then, is the pathway followed by nerves which (a.) carry sensory information from the receptor to the spinal cord, and then (b) carry the response generated by the spinal cord to effector organ(s) during a reflex action.Spinal cord compression
Spinal cord compression develops when the spinal cord is compressed by bone fragments from a vertebral fracture, a tumor, abscess, ruptured intervertebral disc or other lesion. It is regarded as a medical emergency independent of its cause, and requires swift diagnosis and treatment to prevent long-term disability due to irreversible spinal cord injury.Spinal cord injury
A spinal cord injury (SCI) is damage to the spinal cord that causes temporary or permanent changes in its function. Symptoms may include loss of muscle function, sensation, or autonomic function in the parts of the body served by the spinal cord below the level of the injury. Injury can occur at any level of the spinal cord and can be complete injury, with a total loss of sensation and muscle function, or incomplete, meaning some nervous signals are able to travel past the injured area of the cord. Depending on the location and severity of damage, the symptoms vary, from numbness to paralysis to incontinence. Long term outcomes also ranges widely, from full recovery to permanent tetraplegia (also called quadriplegia) or paraplegia. Complications can include muscle atrophy, pressure sores, infections, and breathing problems.
In the majority of cases the damage results from physical trauma such as car accidents, gunshots, falls, or sports injuries, but it can also result from nontraumatic causes such as infection, insufficient blood flow, and tumors. Just over half of injuries affect the cervical spine, while 15% occur in each of the thoracic spine, border between the thoracic and lumbar spine, and lumbar spine alone. Diagnosis is typically based on symptoms and medical imaging.Efforts to prevent SCI include individual measures such as using safety equipment, societal measures such as safety regulations in sports and traffic, and improvements to equipment. Treatment starts with restricting further motion of the spine and maintaining adequate blood pressure. Corticosteroids have not been found to be useful. Other interventions vary depending on the location and extent of the injury, from bed rest to surgery. In many cases, spinal cord injuries require long-term physical and occupational therapy, especially if it interferes with activities of daily living.
In the United States, about 12,000 people a year survive a spinal cord injury. The most commonly affected group are young adult males. SCI has seen great improvements in its care since the middle of the 20th century. Research into potential treatments includes stem cell implantation, engineered materials for tissue support, epidural spinal stimulation, and wearable robotic exoskeletons.Spinal tumor
Spinal tumors are neoplasms located in the spinal cord. Extradural tumors are more common than intradural neoplasms.
Depending on their location, the spinal cord tumors can be:
Extradural - outside the dura mater lining (most common)
Intradural - part of the dura
Intramedullary - inside the spinal cord
Extramedullary- inside the dura, but outside the spinal cordSpinothalamic tract
The spinothalamic tract (also known as anterolateral system or the ventrolateral system) is a sensory pathway from the skin to the thalamus. From the ventral posterolateral nucleus in the thalamus, sensory information is relayed upward to the somatosensory cortex of the postcentral gyrus.
The spinothalamic tract consists of two adjacent pathways: anterior and lateral. The anterior spinothalamic tract carries information about crude touch. The lateral spinothalamic tract conveys pain and temperature.
In the spinal cord, the spinothalamic tract has somatotopic organization. This is the segmental organization of its cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and sacral components, which is arranged from most medial to most lateral respectively.
The pathway crosses over (decussates) at the level of the spinal cord, rather than in the brainstem like the dorsal column-medial lemniscus pathway and lateral corticospinal tract.Syringomyelia
Syringomyelia is a generic term referring to a disorder in which a cyst or cavity forms within the spinal cord. This cyst, called a syrinx, can expand and elongate over time, destroying the spinal cord. The damage may result in loss of feeling, paralysis, weakness, and stiffness in the back, shoulders, and extremities. Syringomyelia may also cause a loss of the ability to feel extremes of hot or cold, especially in the hands. It may also lead to a cape-like bilateral loss of pain and temperature sensation along the upper chest and arms. Each patient experiences a different combination of symptoms. These symptoms typically vary depending on the extent and, often more critically, on the location of the syrinx within the spinal cord.
Syringomyelia has a prevalence estimated at 8.4 cases per 100,000 people, with symptoms usually beginning in young adulthood. Signs of the disorder tend to develop slowly, although sudden onset may occur with coughing, straining, or myelopathy.Tetraplegia
Tetraplegia, also known as quadriplegia, is paralysis caused by illness or injury that results in the partial or total loss of use of all four limbs and torso; paraplegia is similar but does not affect the arms. The loss is usually sensory and motor, which means that both sensation and control are lost. Tetraparesis or quadriparesis, on the other hand, means muscle weakness affecting all four limbs. It may be flaccid or spastic.Transverse myelitis
Transverse myelitis (TM) is a rare neurological condition in which the spinal cord is inflamed. Transverse implies that the inflammation extends across the entire width of the spinal cord. Partial transverse myelitis and partial myelitis are terms used to define inflammation of the spinal cord that affects part of the width of the spinal cord. TM is characterized by weakness and numbness of the limbs, deficits in sensation and motor skills, dysfunctional urethral and anal sphincter activities, and dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system that can lead to episodes of high blood pressure. Signs and symptoms are variable and reflect the level of the affected spinal cord. The underlying cause of transverse myelitis is unknown. The spinal cord inflammation seen in TM has been associated with various infections, immune system disorders, or damage to nerve fibers, by loss of myelin sheaths. Decreased electrical conductivity in the nervous system can result.Vascular myelopathy
Vascular myelopathy (vascular disease of the spinal cord) refers to an abnormality of the spinal cord in regard to its blood supply. The blood supply is complicated and supplied by two major vessel groups: the posterior spinal arteries and the anterior spinal arteries—of which the Artery of Adamkiewicz is the largest. Both the posterior and anterior spinal arteries run the entire length of the spinal cord and receive anastomotic (conjoined) vessels in many places. The anterior spinal artery has a less efficient supply of blood and is therefore more susceptible to vascular disease. Whilst atherosclerosis of spinal arteries is rare, necrosis (death of tissue) in the anterior artery can be caused by disease in vessels originating from the segmental arteries such as atheroma (arterial wall swelling) or aortic dissection (a tear in the aorta).
General anatomy: systems and organs, regional anatomy, planes and lines, superficial axial anatomy, superficial anatomy of limbs
|Central nervous system|
|Peripheral nervous system|
The spinal cord