Charcot Spine following chronic spinal cord injury: an analysis of 201 published cases

Spinal Cord. 2019 Feb;57(2):85-90. doi: 10.1038/s41393-018-0216-6. Epub 2018 Nov 9.


Study design: Analysis of published cases OBJECTIVES: To identify and describe symptoms, radiologic findings, treatment strategies, and reoccurrence of Charcot spine in individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI).

Methods: This analysis included all English articles published prior to October 2017, describing Charcot spine after SCI as identified by multiple reviewers. Articles were excluded if Charcot spine was attributed to alternative conditions. Individual level data were available for 94% of reported cases. Outcomes included demographic factors, injury characteristics, clinical presentation, radiologic findings, management, and reoccurrence.

Results: Fifty included papers described 201 individuals with SCI who developed Charcot spine. 86% of individuals had paraplegia and 93% of individuals had a neurologically complete injury. Mean length of initial spinal fusion spanned 7.7 vertebral bodies (SD = 3.9). The most common presenting symptoms were back pain (56%), spinal deformity (48%), and crepitus (34%). Vertebral body destruction (83%), osteophytes (61%), and endplate destruction (57%) were commonly reported on radiographs. Reoccurrence of Charcot spine was described in 19% of cases after initial treatment.

Conclusion: Charcot spine after SCI commonly presents with low back pain and radiologic evidence of vertebral body destruction. Cases have been described more often in individuals with paraplegia and neurologically complete injuries. Surgical management is often pursued. A high rate of reoccurrence of Charcot spine in individuals with SCI after initial treatment has been reported.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chronic Disease
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Spinal Cord Injuries* / complications
  • Spinal Cord Injuries* / diagnosis
  • Spinal Cord Injuries* / therapy
  • Spinal Diseases / etiology*
  • Spinal Diseases / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome