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History in Neurology: Seminal Citations
August 1999

What, If Anything, Is Spinal Shock?

Author Affiliations

Department of Neurology, Aachen University Medical School, Aachen, Germany.

 

G. GOETZCHRISTOPHERMD

Arch Neurol. 1999;56(8):1033-1035. doi:10.1001/archneur.56.8.1033

The term "spinal shock" describes the sudden and transient suppression of neural functions below the level of acute spinal cord lesions, usually in the setting of trauma, ischemia, hemorrhage, or inflammatory diseases. The syndrome of spinal shock primarily refers to motor and autonomic disorders (see Young and Woolsey1and Guttmann2for reviews) mediated by the reduced excitability of spinal neurons following disconnection from descending input.3During this state, a flaccid paralysis of skeletal muscles occurs, and all tendon, cutaneous, and autonomic reflexes integrated in the spinal cord below the lesion are abolished or greatly reduced. Following variable periods of time, from several days up to 4 to 6 weeks, spinal reflexes return and eventually become exaggerated as the syndrome of spasticity develops (see Noth4for review).

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