BACKGROUND: Controversy surrounds the treatment of traumatic central cord syndrome (TCCS), as there are strong advocates for nonsurgical treatment for most patients. However, conservative treatment has been shown to yield a longer period of discomfort from pain and weakness in certain cases. METHODS: In a retrospective review of 114 patients presenting with acute or chronic TCCS from 1988-94, four different age groups were separately observed under different treatments. Motor and sensory recovery were assessed. RESULTS: Better results were achieved in younger patients, with or without radiographic abnormalities, and in patients with clinically correlated encroaching cord lesions who received early surgical decompression. CONCLUSIONS: Surgical intervention for TCCS must be addressed with careful clinical and radiographic survey. Removal of offending lesions in the subacute period results in significant motor and sensory improvement in short-term and long-term follow-up.
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