Hideaki Nakajima, Shuji Watanabe, Kazuya Honjoh, Arisa Kubota, Akihiko Matsumine

April 2021, Volume 30, Issue 4, pp 829 - 836 Original Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-020-06485-6

First Online: 07 June 2020


Symptomatic thoracic disc herniation (TDH) is relatively rare, but patients with progressive myelopathy require surgical treatment without delay in diagnosis. The aim of this study was to review clinical and radiological features in patients with TDH presenting with myelopathy.


A total of 28 consecutive patients with thoracic myelopathy (Frankel grade C or worse) due to TDH who underwent surgery were divided into 3 groups based on the time for development of myelopathy (acute ( 1 month)] and their data were analyzed.


The patients in the acute group were significantly younger and had a higher body mass index (BMI) compared to those in the subacute and chronic groups. Most cases of acute myelopathy were affected in the upper thoracic level, whereas all patients with subacute and chronic myelopathy had lesions in the lower thoracic level below T8–9. Interestingly, the affected thoracic level in patients with acute myelopathy matched the upper line of the sternum. The rate of acquired walking ability without assistance was only 50.0% in the acute group.


This study suggests that TDH presenting with acute myelopathy may have different clinical and radiological features compared to those of TDH with subacute and chronic myelopathy. Upper TDH should be suspected in cases of acute myelopathy that develops with sudden-onset back pain after certain triggers in younger and higher BMI people. These affected thoracic level matched with the upper line of the sternum in each case.

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