Motor network recovery in patients with chronic spinal cord compression: A longitudinal study following decompression surgery
Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine
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OBJECTIVE The authors used functional MRI to assess cortical reorganization of the motor network after chronic spinal cord compression and to characterize the plasticity that occurs following surgical intervention. METHODS A 3-T MRI scanner was used to acquire functional images of the brain in 22 patients with reversible cervical spinal cord compression and 10 control subjects. Controls performed a finger-tapping task on 3 different occasions (baseline, 6-week follow-up, and 6-month follow-up), whereas patients performed the identical task before surgery and again 6 weeks and 6 months after spinal decompression surgery. RESULTS After surgical intervention, an increased percentage blood oxygen level–dependent signal and volume of activation was observed within the contralateral and ipsilateral motor network. The volume of activation of the contralateral primary motor cortex was associated with functional measures both at baseline (r = 0.55, p < 0.01) and 6 months after surgery (r = 0.55, p < 0.01). The percentage blood oxygen level–dependent signal of the ipsilateral supplementary motor area 6 months after surgery was associated with increased function 6 months after surgery (r = 0.48, p < 0.01). CONCLUSIONS Plasticity of the contralateral and ipsilateral motor network plays complementary roles in maintaining neurological function in patients with spinal cord compression and may be critical in the recovery phase following surgery.