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Stretch-associated injury in cervical spondylotic myelopathy: new concept and review.

Neurosurgery 2005 May
The simple pathoanatomic concept that a narrowed spinal canal causes compression of the enclosed cord, leading to local tissue ischemia, injury, and neurological impairment, fails to explain the entire spectrum of clinical findings observed in cervical spondylotic myelopathy. A growing body of evidence indicates that spondylotic narrowing of the spinal canal and abnormal or excessive motion of the cervical spine results in increased strain and shear forces that cause localized axonal injury within the spinal cord. During normal motion, significant axial strains occur in the cervical spinal cord. At the cervicothoracic junction, where flexion is greatest, the spinal cord stretches 24% of its length. This causes local spinal cord strain. In the presence of pathological displacement, strain can exceed the material properties of the spinal cord and cause transient or permanent neurological injury. Stretch-associated injury is now widely accepted as the principal etiological factor of myelopathy in experimental models of neural injury, tethered cord syndrome, and diffuse axonal injury. Axonal injury reproducibly occurs at sites of maximal tensile loading in a well-defined sequence of intracellular events: myelin stretch injury, altered axolemmal permeability, calcium entry, cytoskeletal collapse, compaction of neurofilaments and microtubules, disruption of anterograde axonal transport, accumulation of organelles, axon retraction bulb formation, and secondary axotomy. Stretch and shear forces generated within the spinal cord seem to be important factors in the pathogenesis of cervical spondylotic myelopathy.

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