Spinal cord ischemia/infarct after cauda equina syndrome from disc herniation - A case study and literature review

David C. Kramer, Adela Aguirre-Alarcon, Reza Yassari, Allan L. Brook, Merritt D. Kinon

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Spinal cord infarction is rare and occurs in 12/100,000; it represents 0.3%-2% of central nervous system infarcts. Here, we present a patient who developed recurrent bilateral lower extremity paraplegia secondary to spinal cord infarction 1 day after a successful L4-5 microdiscectomy in a patient who originally presented with a cauda equina syndrome. Case Description: A 56-year-old patient presented with an acute cauda equina syndrome characterized by severe lower back pain, a right foot drop, saddle anesthesia, and acute urinary retention. When the lumbar magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) revealed a large right paracentral lumbar disc herniation at the L4-L5 level, the patient underwent an emergency minimally invasive right-sided L4-5 discectomy. Immediately, postoperatively, the patient regained normal function. However, 1 day later, while having a bowel movement, he immediately developed the recurrent paraplegia. The new lumbar MRI revealed acute ischemia and an infarct involving the distal conus medullaris. Further, workup was negative for a spinal cord vascular malformation, thus leaving an inflammatory postsurgical vasculitis as the primary etiology of delayed the conus medullaris infarction. Conclusions: Acute neurologic deterioration after spinal surgery which does not neurologically correlate with the operative level or procedure performed should prompt the performance of follow-up MR studies of the neuraxis to rule out other etiologies, including vascular lesions versus infarctions, as causes of new neurological deficits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalSurgical Neurology International
StatePublished - 2019


  • Complication spine surgery
  • Disc herniation
  • Spinal cord infarct
  • Spinal cord ischemia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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