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This learning session is perfect for medical professionals interested in reducing their a phobia related to clinical neurology. Dr. Michael Ken Trees dives into the neuro access, starting from the brain and heading south, discussing different clinical features and localizations related to myelopathy. Neuro anatomy of the spinal cord is discussed, along with syndromes such as brown seicard, anterior cord and subacute combined. Gain a better understanding of localization to optimize diagnosis and treatment for your patients. Join Dr. Ken Trees now and reduce your a phobia and become a better clinician.
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Welcome back to the Neurotransmitters! Today we are talking about spinal cord anatomy. When should you be thinking about a myelopathy (or spinal cord lesion)? Isn't spinal cord anatomy complicated? Join in as we take a lean and practical look at what you need to know to localize clinically!

The views expressed do not necessarily represent those of any associated organizations. The information in this podcast is for educational and informational purposes only and does not represent specific medical/health advice. Please consult with an appropriate health care professional for any medical/health advice.

Learning objectives

Learning objectives: 1. Understand the clinical features of a myelopathy versus an intracranial localization. 2. Explain the differences in the spinothalamic, dorsal column and corticospinal tracts. 3. Identify the somatotopic organization of the cervical, thoracic and lumbar/sacral spinal tracts. 4. Differentiate central cord syndrome, anterior cord syndrome, and subacute combined degeneration. 5. Describe the clinical context in which to consider the vascular supply of the spinal cord.
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Computer generated transcript

The following transcript was generated automatically from the content and has not been checked or corrected manually.

Hello and welcome back to the neuro transmitters, a podcast about everything related to clinical neurology with the goal of reducing your your a phobia. I'm your host, Dr Michael Ken Trees. And thank you again for joining me today. We are continuing our march through the neuro access starting at the brain and heading south. And today we are in the spinal cord. So we when does one consider a myelopathic or a spinal cord localization? There are some key clinical features that can guide you in that direction. A myelopathy shouldn't be causing any abnormalities of cognition, crania, neuropathy, etcetera. So if there's something going on in the head region, we should be revising our opinion. Now, there are ideal that can cause myelopathy as well as cognitive problems and so on and so forth. But we're going to be focusing on primary myelopathic localization is at this particular junction. So once we've excluded an intracranial localization, we are left with a few key signs that would point us towards a myelopathy versus something more distal down into the peripheral nervous system. So some of the things that really packed my ir signs of upper motor neuron involvement in particular, I'm looking for things like increased tone, hyperreflexia, abnormal motor reflexes, like a babinski being present. And the second piece is some sort of crossed sign. In particular, if we see motor and vibratory sense, being affected on one side and pain or temperature sense being affected on the contralateral side, that is very suspicious for something going on in the spinal cord. Now, let's talk a little bit about spinal cord anatomy and how its structure leads us to these clinical signs and points us in this direction to come to a confident localization. So the spinal cord essentially runs from the lower edge of the brain stem down into the lumbar spine. The L1 2 region like many parts of the nervous system, there are a lot of things happening in the spinal cord. But from a clinical assessment perspective, I think there are just a few aspects that will get you 90% of the way there and that is looking at the tracks. So there are two components to this one, which tract is involved and we'll go through those in a minute and to where in the spinal cord are those tracks located. So the three main tracks that we're really looking at are the spinothalamic track that is responsible for pain, temperature, crew touch sensations, the dorsal columns which are responsible for appropriate reception and vibratory sense and last but not least is the corticospinal tract responsible for motor signals from the brain getting to the rest of the body. A lot of the clinical interpretation of the signs related to a myelopathy are related to where in the spinal cord, these different tracks run relative to one another. So I think one of the first things to think about is the deck association or where do the fibers cross. So for the cortical spinal and the dorsal columns, these are going to decorate up in the brain stem in the medulla. And this is why weakness, vibratory sense and proprioception sense will often be ipsilateral to the lesion. In mile opathy. The spinothalamic tract is the odd one out as it devastates in the cord, usually a couple levels above its point of origin into the spinal cord. So this means that with unilateral spinal cord lesions, the pain and temperature loss will usually be contralateral to the side that is affected. The classic name that you may have heard for this pattern of symptoms is called Brown Sicard syndrome or hemi cord syndrome where you have ipsilateral weakness, loss of vibratory, appropriate reception sense on the same side as the lesion and contralateral loss of pain and temperature sense. So you may hear people in clinical practice say like does the patient have a level or a spinal level? And what they're referring to is where is the lowest level down where we have the weakness, the numbness, the sensory disturbances, etcetera. And ideally, we should be able to put those all together into one place for a proper localization. Another key thing to remember when we're considering localization in the spinal cord is that if the arms and the legs are involved, we're usually looking at the cervical spinal cord, particularly if weakness is involved. The lowest level in the arms and hands is usually going to be T one and this is similar for sensory abnormalities as well. So anything that localizes to the myotome or the dermatome above T one should be involving the cervical spine. If we're during a myelopathy, if we have a sensory level to reduce sensation to pinprick across the poor, so say somewhere on the chest wall, then we're really looking more in the thoracic spine at this point in time. And if there is weakness, it should not involve the arms theoretically. If it is in the mid to lower thoracic spine, I will say anecdotally that you will sometimes have an exam where you're like, oh, there's very clearly local is to see seven or T two. And you only get the MRI of the cervical or thoracic spine and then you find I just missed the lesion or you've only caught a piece of it. And so then you have to send the patient back for repeat imaging of the piece that you left off. So things that are right on that cervical thoracic border, I would usually get pictures of both the cervical and thoracic spine personally speaking, now, we've been talking a little bit about the vertical in terms of the spinal cord. But let's talk a little bit about the cross sectional anatomy for just a moment. This will be important for conceptualizing the other patterns of myelopathy that we often see in clinical practice. So the lateral corticospinal tracks as the name would suggest are mostly lateral, little posterior. The dorsal columns are as you might guess dorsal or posterior and medial. And the anterior lateral or spinothalamic tracks are anterior and lateral. Again, it is nice when things are named in a somewhat descriptive fashion that gives us useful information just from the name. Now, in addition to these tracks, locations within the spinal cord themselves, they also individually have somatotopic organization. That is to say there is a pattern of you know, cervical thoracic lumbar sacral from medial collateral for each one of these tracks. So for the corticospinal and spinothalamic tracks, cervical is more medial sacral is more lateral and just because nothing in life can ever be too easy. The dorsal columns are the opposite of that. So the sacral tracks are more medial and the cervical tracks are more lateral. Got all that know, let's say it one more time. Corticospinal and spinothalamic tracks, cervical, medial sacral lateral dorsal columns, sacral, medial cervical lateral repetition is the mother of all learning as they say. So let's move on to some clinical syndromes. With this knowledge in hand, the spinal cord syndrome, who's identification depends most on knowing this information is central cord syndrome. Now, central cord syndrome is most commonly going to be related to something that is causing dilation of the central canal. The most common thing would likely be a cering X because the central canal is right next door to where the spinal thalamic fibers across, particularly the ones going into the cervical cord. This leads to abnormal pain and temperature sensation primarily in the upper extremities and upper torso. Another spinal cord syndrome to be aware of is anterior cord syndrome. And this is going to involve the tracks in the anterior part of the spinal cord, which are going to be the spinothalamic and corticospinal tracks. Primarily because this is often vial lateral below the level of the lesion. We are going to see weakness and impaired pain and temperature sensation, but intact proprioception and vibratory sense anti record syndrome. In particular is often ischemic in nature and this has to do with the vascular supply to the anterior spinal cord. The anti or spinal artery tends to receive feeders from different ridiculous er arteries. The most prominent of these is known as the artery of a damn quits, usually found in, in the lower thoracic area around T nine t 10. So in the setting of big drops in blood pressure and someone who maybe has some atherosclerotic disease in that artery or in people who have a abdominal aortic aneurysm around that level who have to go undergo surgery. These are all reasons why that artery may become occluded leading to an acute spinal cord infarction presenting with that anti record syndrome. Potentially the last spinal cord syndrome that I wanted to mention today is subacute combined a generation and this one is a mixture of the dorsal columns and the corticospinal tracks. This can be due to several different causes. A classic one being B 12 deficiency, which could be from people who are malnourished from a history of gastric bypass, who maybe had a recent gastrointestinal illness. You can see similar things with copper deficiency as well and you can also see similar patterns with things like HIV one specific pattern to bring up with these entities, particularly B 12 and copper deficiency is a milo neuropathy and this is what it sounds like. It's a mixture of myelopathy and neuropathy. So you can't have mixed upper and lower motor neuron signs. And we're going to talk more about the approach to weakness in a later episode, but briefly upper motor neuron signs or going to be spasticity, hyperreflexia, lower motor neuron signs would be more expected to be decreased, tone areflexia and potentially fasciculation and atrophy depending on the timeline. So, in summary, if you keep your three tracks in mind, your cortical spinal, spinal thalamic and dorsal columns and the relative relation to one another in mind, you can localize pretty well in the spinal cord and keep it in mind, the patterns of different spinal cord syndromes. These localization is all have tendencies to be associate with different pathologies some more or less likely than others in different clinical context. So again, putting the physical exam findings that you see in the context of your patient's history is always of the utmost importance. Something occurring over the span of minutes is going to have a much different differential diagnosis than something occurring over the span of months or years. Thank you again for joining me today as we build up these fundamentals of neuro anatomy and clinical neurology and help reduce your, your a phobia, make you into a better clinician, better able to diagnose and treat your patient's. I know you have a lot of options out there for where you get your learning and I appreciate that you spend the time with me today. If you enjoy this podcast, please consider leaving a five star review on Apple Spotify or wherever you get your podcast. This really helps with getting the show noticed and do subscribe for future episodes. If you have any questions, show suggestions or just want to say, hey, feel free to reach out to me on, on Twitter at Dr Ken Trees. That's Dr Ken Trees, Kengris. You can also reach me by email at the Neuro transmitters podcast at gmail dot com. I hope you have a great day and keep on localizing out there. We'll see you next time