Central Cord Syndrome
(CCS; Central Cervical Cord Syndrome; Central Cord Injury; Injury, Central Cord; Paralysis, Upper Extremity; Syndrome, Central Cord; Syndrome, Central Cervical Cord; Upper Extremity Paralysis; Acute Central Cord Syndrome)
Central cord syndrome (CCS) is a type of incomplete spinal cord injury. CCS is marked by damage to the nerve fibers that bring messages from the brain to the body. This condition affects how you can use your arms and hands, and in some cases, your legs. There may be a loss of sensation and motor control.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
CCS is caused by damage to the central part of the spinal cord. This damage may occur when the neck is hyperextended. This can be associated with:
- Syringomyelia (syrinx)—a cyst in the spinal cord
- Loss of blood supply to the area
- Bleeding in the spinal cord
Common causes of injury include:
- Trauma, such as car accident, sports injuries, and falls
- Degenerative condition of spine—often found in older people
- Pre-existing condition, such as being born with a narrow spine
CSS can also be due to:
- Structural problems
- Tumors within the spinal cord
Males over 50 are more likely to have this condition. Other factors that increase your chance of CCS include:
- Autoimmune disorder, such as multiple sclerosis and neuromyelitis optica
- Pre-existing condition, such as narrow spinal canal, spinal cord disease, and tethered cord
- Participation in certain sports, such as wrestling and diving
Symptoms of CCS may include:
- Inability to lift arms and hands completely, or numbness and tingling
- Difficulty with fine motor control, such as buttoning a shirt
- Muscle weakness in legs, difficulty walking
- Loss of bladder control
If CCS is due to trauma, symptoms usually come quickly. Sometimes, however, symptoms may come more slowly.
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. A neurologic exam may also be done.
Images may be taken of your spinal cord. These can be done with:
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Rehab can take a long time for some people. If you are young and have more muscle function, you have a better chance of recovering.
Treatment options include the following:
In most cases, surgery is not needed. Often treatment involves:
- Restricting neck movement
- Giving steroids
- Doing physical and occupational therapy
Surgery is needed if there is a large compression of the spinal cord fibers. Surgery may also be done after a period of recovery. For example, if you still have cord compression after a recovery period.
To help reduce your chance of a spinal cord injury:
- Do not dive into water if you do not know how deep it is.
- Always wear a seatbelt.
- Do not drink and drive. Do not ride with someone who has been drinking.
- Remove obstacles in your house, like throw rugs, that could cause falls.
- Use safe methods and proper equipment when playing sports.
- Secure firearms.
Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Canadian Spinal Research Organization
Spinal Cord Research Centre
Cortez R, Levi AD. Acute spinal cord injury. Curr Treat Options Neurol. 2007;9(2):115-125.
Finnoff JT, Midlenberger D, Cassidy CD.. Central cord syndrome in a football player with congenital spinal stenosis. Am J Sports Med. 2004;32(2):516-521.
McKinley W, Santos K, Meade M, Brooke K.Incidence and outcomes of spinal cord injury clinical syndromes. J Spinal Cord Med. 2007;30(3):215-224.
NINDS central cord syndrome information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Central-Cord-Syndrome-Information-Page. Accessed November 8, 2017.
Older adult falls. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/index.html. Accessed November 8, 2017.
Rich V, McCaslin E. Central cord syndrome in a high school wrestler: a case report. J Athl Train. 2006;41(3):341-344.
Spinal cord injury—acute management. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114275/Spinal-cord-injury-acute-management. Updated June 15, 2017. Accessed November 8, 2017.
Spinal cord injury—chronic management. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T566521. Updated September 7, 2017. Accessed November 8, 2017.
Traumatic brain injury. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/TraumaticBrainInjury/index.html. Updated July 6, 2017. Accessed November 8, 2017.
Visocchi M, Di Rocco F, Meglio M. Subacute clinical onset of post-traumatic myelopathy. Acta Neurochir (Wein). 2003;145(9): 799-804.
Last reviewed November 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD Last Updated: 12/20/2014