Teresa S. Wang, Betsy H. Grunch, Jessica R. Moreno, Carlos A. Bagley, Oren N. Gottfried

January 2012, Volume 21, Issue 4, pp 521 - 524 Case Report Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-011-2143-5

First Online: 11 January 2012


To describe a case of cervical flexion myelopathy resulting from a drug overdose.


A 56-year-old male presented to the emergency department unable to move his extremities following drug overdose. Neurological examination revealed him to be at C6 ASIA A spinal cord injury. The CT of his cervical spine revealed no fracture; however, an MRI revealed cord edema extending from C3 to C6 as well as posterior paraspinal signal abnormalities suggestive of ligamentous injury.


The patient underwent a posterior cervical laminectomy and fusion from C3 to C7. Neurologically he regained 3/5 bilateral tricep function and 2/5 grip; otherwise, he remained at ASIA A spinal cord injury at 6 months.


Our patient suffered a spinal cord injury likely due to existing cervical stenosis, and in addition to an overdose of sedating medications, he likely sat in flexed neck position for prolonged period of time with the inability to modify his position. This likely resulted in cervical spine vascular and/or neurological compromise producing an irreversible spinal cord injury. Spinal cord injury is a rare finding in patients presenting with drug overdose. The lack of physical exam findings suggestive of trauma may delay prompt diagnosis and treatment, and thus clinicians must have a high index of suspicion when evaluating patients in this setting.

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