Spinal Cord Infarction

African American woman doctor looking at xraySpinal cord infarction is a stroke either within the spinal cord or the
arteries that supply it. It is caused by arteriosclerosis or a thickening or
closing of the major arteries to the spinal cord. Frequently spinal cord
infarction is caused by a specific form of arteriosclerosis called
atheromatosis, in which a deposit or accumulation of lipid-containing matter
forms within the arteries. Symptoms, which generally appear within minutes or a
few hours of the infarction, may include intermittent sharp or burning back
pain, aching pain down through the legs, weakness in the legs, paralysis, loss
of deep tendon reflexes, loss of pain and temperature sensation, and

Is there any treatment?

Treatment is symptomatic. Physical and occupational therapy may help
individuals recover from weakness or paralysis. A catheter may be necessary for
patients with urinary incontinence.

What is the prognosis?

Recovery depends upon how quickly treatment is received and how severely
the body is compromised. Paralysis may persist for many weeks or be permanent.
Most individuals have a good chance of recovery.

What research is being done?

NINDS conducts and supports research on disorders of the spinal cord such
as spinal cord infarction, aimed at learning more about these disorders and
finding ways to prevent and treat them.

Select this link to view a list of studies currently seeking patients.


Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation
636 Morris Turnpike
Short Hills, NJ   07078
[email protected]
973-379-2690 800-225-0292
Fax: 973-912-9433

National Spinal Cord Injury Association
1 Church
Rockville, MD   20850
[email protected]
Fax: 301-963-1265
Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA)
801 18th Street,
Washington, DC   20006-3517
[email protected]
Tel: 202-USA-1300 (872-1300)
Fax: 202-785-4452


Related NINDS Publications and Information

– NINDS Spinal Cord Injury Information Page
– Spinal cord injury
information sheet compiled by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders
and Stroke (NINDS).
– Spinal Cord Injury: Emerging Concepts
– Report of a
1996 workshop on spinal cord injury research and treatments
– Functional and
Dysfunctional Spinal Circuitry: Role for Rehabilitation and Neural
– Summary of NINDS New Strategies in Spinal Cord Injury workshop
held June, 2000.
– NINDS Workshop on Re-establishing Connectivity in the
Damaged Spinal Cord
– Summary of NINDS Workshop on Re-establishing
Connectivity in the Damaged Spinal Cord held January 18-19, 2001


Prepared by:
Office of Communications and Public Liaison
Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
National Institutes of
Bethesda, MD 20892


NINDS health-related material is provided for information purposes only
and does not necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of the
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke or any other Federal
agency. Advice on the treatment or care of an individual patient should be
obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or
is familiar with that patient’s medical history.

All NINDS-prepared information is in the public domain and may be freely
copied. Credit to the NINDS or the NIH is appreciated.

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Last updated May 07, 2008