Ischemic myelopathy: A review of spinal vasculature and related clinical syndromes

James A. Sliwa*, Ian C. Maclean

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


This article provides a comprehensive review of spinal vascular anatomy (arterial and venous) and clinical syndromes that result from the disruption of blood flow to or from the spinal cord. Blood is supplied to the spinal cord through three longitudinal channels: one anterior and two posterior spinal arteries. These vessels, which originate as branches of the vertebral arteries and run caudally along the spinal cord, are augmented by a variable number of medullary arteries. A vascular ring, or vasa coronae, surrounds the cord and connects these longitudinal channels. Central arteries from the anterior spinal artery and penetrating vessels from the vasa coronae provide blood directly to the cord. Venous flow from the spinal cord is also accomplished through a system of anterior and posterior spinal vessels draining through a variable number of medullary veins and an extensive valveless vertebral venous plexus. The disruption of blood flow to or from the spinal cord can result in infarction, with permanent neurologic loss and physical impairment. The clinical presentation in cases of ischemic myelopathy can be variable. Discrete syndromes based on the occlusion of specific vessels are reported and include venous infarction, anterior and posterior spinal artery syndrome, and central infarction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)365-372
Number of pages8
JournalArchives of physical medicine and rehabilitation
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1992


  • Infarction
  • Ischemia
  • Spinal cord

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation

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