Incomplete cord syndromes encompass a variety of patterns of cross-sectional partial disruption of the spinal cord. Due to the spatial segregation of various ascending and descending tracts within the cord, regional dysfunction results in predictable and distinct clinical patterns of deficit. As certain patterns are seen more frequently in certain conditions, these syndromes are helpful in diagnosing the underlying pathology.
Incomplete cord syndromes can result from a wide variety of underlying conditions including trauma, infection and inflammation, tumor and mechanical impingement 1.
Generally, six separate patterns of deficit are recognized 1:
- ventral cord syndrome
- central cord syndrome
- dorsal cord syndrome
- Brown-Séquard syndrome
- conus medullaris syndrome
- cauda equina syndrome
As the imaging features, underlying causative pathology and prognosis differ depending on the syndrome, these are discussed separately.