Thoracic Myelopathy

Thoracic myelopathy refers to a condition characterized by compression or damage to the spinal cord in the thoracic region of the spine. The thoracic spine is the mid-back region that corresponds to the area between the neck (cervical spine) and the lower back (lumbar spine). Myelopathy occurs when the spinal cord is affected, leading to a range of neurological symptoms. Unlike cervical myelopathy, thoracic myelopathy is less common due to the relatively stable and protected nature of the thoracic spine.
Key Features of Thoracic Myelopathy:
  • Causes:
    • Spinal Stenosis: Narrowing of the spinal canal in the thoracic region can compress the spinal cord.
    • Disc Herniation: Protrusion of intervertebral disc material into the spinal canal can lead to compression.
    • Trauma: Injuries such as fractures or dislocations in the thoracic spine can cause direct damage to the spinal cord.
    • Tumors: Tumors in the thoracic spine, whether primary or metastatic, can compress the spinal cord.
  • Symptoms:
    • Motor Symptoms: Weakness or paralysis in the legs, often affecting coordination and balance.
    • Sensory Symptoms: Numbness, tingling, or changes in sensation, typically in the lower extremities.
    • Bowel and Bladder Dysfunction: In severe cases, thoracic myelopathy can lead to problems with bowel and bladder control.
    • Pain: Pain or discomfort in the mid-back may be present, but it is generally less common than in cervical or lumbar myelopathy.
  • Diagnostic Approaches:
    • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging): Visualizes the thoracic spine and helps identify compression or abnormalities in the spinal cord.
    • CT (Computed Tomography) Scan: Useful for assessing bony structures and identifying potential causes of compression.
    • Neurological Examination: A healthcare provider assesses motor function, reflexes, and sensory perception.
  • Treatment Options:
    • Conservative Management: Non-surgical approaches include physical therapy, pain medications, and lifestyle modifications.
    • Corticosteroid Injections: Injections of corticosteroids into the affected area to reduce inflammation and alleviate symptoms.
    • Surgical Intervention: Surgery may be considered in cases of severe or progressive thoracic myelopathy. Procedures may involve decompression of the spinal cord or stabilization of the spine.
Thoracic myelopathy is relatively rare compared to myelopathy in the cervical or lumbar regions. The choice of treatment depends on the underlying cause, the severity of symptoms, and the overall health of the individual. Early diagnosis and intervention are crucial to prevent further neurological deterioration. Individuals experiencing symptoms suggestive of thoracic myelopathy should seek prompt evaluation and guidance from a healthcare professional.


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