Cervical myelopathy with false localizing sensory levels

Kristin K. Adams, Carlayne E. Jackson, Ronald A. Rauch, Steve F. Hart, Romana S. Kleinguenther, Richard J. Barohn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Background: The diagnosis of cervical myelopathy is not always initially recognized. Only a few reports have described the discrepancy between sensory level and the site of cord compression, but none, to our knowledge, have used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for localization. Objective: To identify a syndrome of compressive cervical myelopathy with false localizing thoracic sensory levels. Design: Case series. Setting: A university hospital referral center. Results: Four men, aged 24 to 60 years, presented with progressive weakness and hyperreflexia involving the lower extremities and distinct thoracic sensory levels ranging from T-4 to T-10. None of these patients had cervical pain, history of trauma, or upper extremity symptoms. Results of MRI scans of the thoracic spinal cord were unremarkable. Initially, 1 patient was suspected of having transverse myelitis and was treated with high-dose steroids. All 4 patients were eventually found to have cervical spinal cord compression, diagnosed by MRI. Three patients underwent surgery for decompression of the cervical lesion. While all 3 improved in lower extremity strength, 2 had persistent discrete thoracic sensory levels postoperatively. Conclusions: Failure to diagnose cervical myelopathy because of the presence of a thoracic sensory level can delay appropriate treatment or lead to incorrect therapy. Persistence of a thoracic sensory level following surgery can occur.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1155-1158
Number of pages4
JournalArchives of Neurology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Neurology


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