What Are the Signs of a Spinal Cord Stroke?


Quick Answer

Symptoms of a spinal cord stroke, or infarction, include severe back pain and pain through both legs, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Those limbs become weak or even paralyzed, and leg reflexes diminish. The stroke victim feels neither pain nor temperature and sometimes becomes incontinent.

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In a spinal stroke, the arteries going to the spinal cord thicken or close, and its blood supply is cut off, states NINDS. Doctors suspect this condition when the onset of symptoms is sudden, the Merck Manual says. Although certain conditions, such as spinal cord compression, present similar signs, they do not come on so quickly. MRI technology and cerebrospinal fluid analysis are used to confirm the diagnosis.

Recovery typically involves treating the symptoms, explains NINDS. Patients who are weak or paralyzed require physical or occupational therapy. A patient who remains incontinent often needs a catheter placed. If the specific cause of the stroke is identifiable, it is treated, the Merck Manual asserts. For example, an aortic dissection -- tear in an artery wall -- is repaired surgically, MedlinePlus describes.

Most patients who suffer spinal strokes make satisfactory recoveries, assures NINDS. If initial treatment is prompt, recovery tends to progress better. Typically, the more serious the effects, the longer recuperation takes. In some cases, paralysis is permanent.

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