Fibrocartilaginous embolism as a cause of anterior spinal artery syndrome?

Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen. 2020 Mar 30;140(5). doi: 10.4045/tidsskr.19.0261. Print 2020 Mar 31.
[Article in English, Norwegian]


Background: Fibrocartilaginous embolism (FCE) is a rare cause of spinal cord infarction. Most spinal cord infarctions are due to aortic pathologies and aortic surgeries. One theory is that material from the intervertebral discs follows a retrograde route to the anterior spinal artery. Fibrocartilaginous embolism and spinal cord infarction have also been described in veterinary literature. Spinal cord MRI diffusion-weighted imaging is of great help in finding the right diagnosis.

Case presentation: A young man was admitted to hospital after he woke up due to a sudden pain between his shoulders. He developed paresis in both his arms and legs within three hours. A neurological examination uncovered urinary retention, sensory deficits and paresis. The clinical picture was consistent with an infarction in the anterior spinal arterial distribution area. MRI of the patient's spine revealed an infarction in the anterior medulla.

Interpretation: Fibrocartilaginous embolism is probably more common than previously presumed.

MeSH terms

  • Anterior Spinal Artery Syndrome* / complications
  • Anterior Spinal Artery Syndrome* / diagnostic imaging
  • Cartilage Diseases*
  • Embolism* / complications
  • Embolism* / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Infarction / diagnostic imaging
  • Infarction / etiology
  • Male
  • Spinal Cord / diagnostic imaging

Supplementary concepts

  • Fibrocartilaginous embolism