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Irreversible tissue loss can occur quickly after spinal cord injury

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Degenerative tissue loss resulting from a spinal cord injury was shown to develop in the spinal cord and brain as early as 40 days after the injury, according to a study published in The Lancet Neurology.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Zurich and the Uniklinik Balgrist in Zurich, included 13 patients with acute spinal cord injuries. Patients were examined clinically and by MRI at baseline, 2 months, 6 months and 12 months. Compared with 18 controls, patients showed a rapid decrease in cord diameter, which was an average of 7% smaller after 12 months. They also found a volume decline in the corticospinal tract, which is necessary for motor control, as well as a decline in nerve cells in the sensorimotor cortex.

“Extensive upstream atrophic and microstructural changes of corticospinal axons and sensorimotor cortical areas occur in the first months after spinal cord injury, with faster degenerative changes relating to poorer recovery,” the authors wrote in the study abstract. “Structural volumetric and microstructural MRI protocols remote from the site of spinal cord injury could serve as neuroimaging biomarkers in acute spinal cord injury.”

For more information:

Freund P. Lancet Neurol. 2013. doi: 10.1016/S1474-4422(13)70146-7

Disclosure: The study was funded by grants from SRH Holding, Swiss National Science Foundation, Clinical Research Priority Program “NeuroRehab” University of Zurich and Wellcome Trust.

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