Selective Vulnerability of the Lumbosacral Spinal Cord After Cardiac Arrest and Hypotension
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BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: It is generally accepted that the gray matter in the watershed area of the midthoracic level of the spinal cord is the ischemic watershed zone of the spinal cord. We performed a retrospective study to reevaluate the frequency and distribution of spinal cord injury after a global ischemic event. METHODS: Clinical files and neuropathology specimens of all adult patients with either a well-documented cardiac arrest or a severe hypotensive episode, as well as pathologically confirmed ischemic encephalopathy and/or myelopathy, were reviewed by an independent reviewer. RESULTS: Among 145 cases satisfying selection criteria, ischemic myelopathy was found in 46% of patients dying after either a cardiac arrest or a severe hypotensive episode. Among the patients with myelopathy, predominant involvement of the lumbosacral level with relative sparing of thoracic levels was observed in >95% of cardiac arrest and hypotensive patients. None of the examined patients developed neuronal necrosis limited to the thoracic level only. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings indicate a greater vulnerability of neurons in the lumbar or lumbosacral spinal cord to ischemia than other levels of the spinal cord.
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