False localizing signs in upper cervical spinal cord compression

William J. Sonstein, Patrick A. LaSala, W. Jost Michelsen, Stephen T. Onesti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


PROPRIOCEPTIVE LOSS, PARESTHESIAS, and atrophy of the hands can occur with disorders afflicting the upper cervical spinal cord. The diagnosis might be erroneous, because compression in this region might produce signs and symptoms that seem to originate in the lower cervical cord. This article reviews the clinical presentation and radiographic data of a consecutive series of 11 patients who presented between 1992 and 1994 with an extradural lesion above the C4 level. Each patient bad a characteristic syndrome of finger and hand dysesthesias, hand atrophy, and occipital or cervical pain. These complaints usually preceded the development of spasticity and gait disturbance. Initial diagnoses included brachial plexopathy, shoulder dysfunction, viral syndrome, and cervical spondylosis at a lower segment. Cervical spondylosis or a herniated disc was the most common pathogenesis. The most commonly involved level was C3-C4. Nine patients underwent a surgical procedure; eight showed significant postoperative improvement (mean time of follow-up examination, 9.7 mo; follow-up range, 1-24 mo). One patient was lost to follow-up. Although the pathophysiology of these findings is unknown, theories include anterior spinal artery ischemia, venous obstruction, and differential decussation of the forelimb and hindlimb fibers of the corticospinal tract. Recognition of this syndrome might prevent inappropriate operative intervention in patients with coexisting pathological conditions of the lower cervical spinal cord.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)445-449
Number of pages5
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1996


  • Cervical spine
  • Hand dysfunction
  • Myelopathy
  • Surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


Dive into the research topics of 'False localizing signs in upper cervical spinal cord compression'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this