Spinal Cord Infarction

Spinal cord infarction is a stroke within either 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. Often spinal cord infarction is caused by a specific form of arteriosclerosis. It is called atheromatosis. In it, a deposit or accumulation of lipid-containing matter forms within the arteries.


Symptoms generally appear within minutes or a few hours of the infarction. They may include:

  • Sharp or burning back pain off and on.

  • Aching pain down through the legs.

  • Weakness in the legs.

  • Paralysis.

  • Loss of deep tendon reflexes.

  • Loss of pain and temperature sensation.

  • Incontinence.


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

Recovery depends upon:

  • How quickly treatment is received.

  • How severely the body is compromised.

Paralysis may last for many weeks or be permanent. Most individuals have a good chance of recovery.