The Differences Between Posterior and Anterior Cord Syndrome

Spinal cord injury can be a different experience for everyone, and considerations such as rehabilitation, compensation and dealing with everyday life depend on the type of spinal cord injury and how it affects each person.

spinal cord injury

Classifying a spinal cord injury can help patients to understand as they learn to accept life after injury, search for the best coping mechanisms and find the right rehabilitation services. Two of the classifications include anterior and posterior cord syndrome.

What is anterior cord syndrome?

Anterior cord syndrome is a spinal injury that affects the anterior two-thirds of the spinal cord, caused by a lack of blood flow that prevents oxygen from getting to the spinal cord, injuring the surrounding tissue.

Those dealing with anterior cord syndrome will often experience paralysis below the lesion level and may experience issues with thermal regulation and pain in the lesion level area.

What is posterior cord syndrome?

Posterior cord syndrome affects the dorsal columns found on the backside of the lower spinal cord. This type of syndrome is not as common as anterior cord syndrome, and those who experience it may deal with impaired voluntary movement coordination (sensory ataxia).
The posterior area is responsible for body vibration, sense of movement and other crucial sensory functions, although they could still experience pain and a mix of temperatures.

Most of those living with posterior cord syndrome can walk but may struggle to find their balance.

The causes of posterior and anterior cord syndrome

Compression of the anterior spinal artery is often the cause of anterior cord syndrome. For some people, this can occur without any signs of previous trauma. For others, it is the cause of an incredibly traumatic injury from situations such as car accidents or falls from height.

Acute anterior cord syndrome happens almost immediately, within a couple of hours of the initial problem arising. For most, this will feel pain in the back or chest area, and the injured party will not be able to use motor functions below the spine.

Late anterior cord syndrome can occur a few days or weeks after initial compression or injury, which can shock the system and have a sudden impact as soon as the symptoms appear.

Posterior cord syndrome is caused entirely by diseases – such as multiple sclerosis, tumours and neurodegenerative disorders. It can also occur due to blockage around the posterior spinal artery, as this artery is responsible for supplying blood to the spinal cord’s posterior columns. With two posterior spinal arteries, any damage to the body will be on one side.

Treatment plans

The number one treatment for anterior cord syndrome is immediate hospital care, allowing medical professionals to discover the underlying cause, provide treatment, which could involve surgery or medication, and attempt to regain sensation and movement control.

While some patients regain their ability to walk, some may find it hard to overcome muscle control. To improve chances of recovery, medical professionals may conduct testing and encourage rehabilitation or treatment plans.

Depending on the damage to the spinal cord, treatment for posterior cord syndrome can vary for each patient. However, despite the need for different rehabilitation plans, all patients receive physical and occupational therapy, which can hugely benefit those struggling to balance. Some patients will require surgery, while others may need additional supplements. Treatment is entirely down to the individual and their injury.

Seek support from Aspire Law

If you or a member of your family have sustained a spinal cord injury, there are many ways that our solicitors at Aspire Law can help you. Our main aim is to secure a compensation package that will enable you to maintain an independent and fulfilling life. Your award will pay for care and rehabilitation costs, loss of current and future earnings, and compensation for any pain and suffering.