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Dropped-head syndrome resulting from injury to the central spinal cord at the upper cervical level

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There are many causes of paraspinal muscle weakness which give rise to the dropped-head syndrome. In the upper cervical spine the central portion of the spinal cord innervates the cervical paraspinal muscles. Dropped-head syndrome resulting from injury to the central spinal cord at this level has not previously been described. We report two patients who were treated acutely for this condition. Both presented with weakness in the upper limbs and paraspinal cervical musculature after a fracture of C2. Despite improvement in the strength of the upper limbs, the paraspinal muscle weakness persisted in both patients. One ultimately underwent cervicothoracic fusion to treat her dropped-head syndrome.

While the cause of the dropped-head syndrome cannot be definitively ascribed to the injuries to the spinal cord, this pattern is consistent with the known patho-anatomical mechanisms of both injury to the central spinal cord and dropped-head syndrome.

Correspondence should be sent to Professor R. A. Hart; e-mail: hartro@ohsu.edu

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