Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

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Spinal Cord Compression Anatomy

To better understand epidural compression syndrome, it helps to understand the anatomy of the spinal column.

The spine is an upright row of stacked bones, called the vertebral column. Individual bones of the spine are called vertebrae. The vertebral column starts under the skull and continues to the buttocks.

Bones of the spine:

  • Bones of the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine
  • Lower spine

The front of each vertebra is a round, solid cylinder of bone. Between each pair of vertebrae, a disk attaches to the bottom of the vertebra above it, and to the top of the vertebrae below it. The discs act as rubber cushions between the vertebrae. In addition, strong ligaments and muscles hold the vertebral column together. These structures support, surround, and protect the spinal cord.

The dura is the lining that surrounds the brain and the spinal cord. In the brain, the epidural space is the area between the dural overlying the brain and the skull. In the spine, the epidural space is the area between the dura lining the spinal cord and the bones that make up the spinal canal.

Spinal Cord Anatomy
  • Bones of the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine
  • Front view of the spine and spinal cord
  • Cross sectional view
  • Spinal cord surgery
  • The conus medullaris is the end of the spinal cord in the back.
  • The spinal cord ends in the lumbar spine at the level of L1 to L2
  • The cauda equina is a bundle of nerves at the bottom of the spinal cord.
    • Nerves of the cauda equina supply the bladder, rectum, perineum, and legs.

Last Updated: Dec 10, 2010 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Spinal Cord Compression References
  1. Byrne TN. Metastatic epidural cord compression. Curr Neurol Neurosci Rep. 2004 May;4(3):191-5. [15102344]
  2. Chamberlain MC, Kormanik PA. Epidural spinal cord compression: a single institution's retrospective experience. Neuro-oncol. 1999 Apr;1(2):120-3. [11550307]
  3. Eriks IE, Angenot EL, Lankhorst GJ. Epidural metastatic spinal cord compression: functional outcome and survival after inpatient rehabilitation. Spinal Cord. 2004 Apr;42(4):235-9. [15060521]
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