Incomplete Cord Syndromes: Clinical and Imaging Review

Radiographics. 2018 Jul-Aug;38(4):1201-1222. doi: 10.1148/rg.2018170178.


The ability to localize the three spinal tracts (corticospinal tract, spinothalamic tract, and dorsal [posterior] columns) involved in incomplete spinal cord syndromes at cross-sectional imaging and knowledge of the classic clinical manifestations of the various syndromes enable optimized imaging evaluation and provide clinicians with information that aids in diagnosis and treatment. The requisite knowledge for localizing these tracts is outlined. The authors review the spinal cord anatomy, blood supply, and course of these tracts and describe the various associated syndromes: specifically, dorsal cord, ventral cord, central cord, Brown-Séquard, conus medullaris, and cauda equina syndromes. In addition, they describe the anatomic basis for the clinical manifestation of each syndrome and the relevant imaging features of the classic causes of these entities. Knowledge of the anatomy and clinical findings of the spinal cord is essential for examining and treating patients with cord abnormalities. ©RSNA, 2018.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Spinal Cord / abnormalities*
  • Spinal Cord / anatomy & histology
  • Spinal Cord Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Syndrome