This review aims at summarising and discussing the current status concerning the clinical presentation, pathogenesis, diagnosis, and treatment of spinal cord affection in mitochondrial disorders (MIDs). A literature search using the database Pubmed was carried out by application of appropriate search terms and their combinations. Involvement of the spinal cord in MIDs is more frequent than anticipated. It occurs in specific and non-specific MIDs. Among the specific MIDs it has been most frequently described in LBSL, LS, MERRF, KSS, IOSCA, MIRAS, and PCH and only rarely in MELAS, CPEO, and LHON. Clinically, spinal cord involvement manifests as monoparesis, paraparesis, quadruparesis, sensory disturbances, hypotonia, spasticity, urinary or defecation dysfunction, spinal column deformities, or as transverse syndrome. Diagnosing spinal cord involvement in MIDs requires a thoroughly taken history, clinical exam, and imaging studies. Additionally, transcranial magnetic stimulation, somato-sensory-evoked potentials, and cerebro-spinal fluid can be supportive. Treatment is generally not at variance compared to the underlying MID but occasionally surgical stabilisation of the spinal column may be necessary. It is concluded that spinal cord involvement in MIDs is more frequent than anticipated but may be missed if cerebral manifestations prevail. Spinal cord involvement in MIDs may strongly determine the mobility of these patients.
Keywords: Mitochondrial; mtDNA; myelon; myelopathy; respiratory chain; spinal cord; transverse syndrome.