Pediatric fibrocartilaginous embolism inducing paralysis

Ranbir Ahluwalia, Laura Hayes, Tushar Chandra, Todd A. Maugans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: Fibrocartilaginous embolism (FCE) is a rare cause of pediatric ischemic myelopathy. The pathology is thought to result from fragmentation with embolization into the microvasculature of the radicular artery often secondary to high axial force. While most cases arise in the setting of vigorous activity, our case reveals that FCE can also occur during relative physical inactivity. Additionally, while a majority of cases are associated with neck or back pain, our case also reveals that FCE can present without concurrent pain episodes. Case Summary: We describe a rare case of spinal cord infarction (SCI) likely due to FCE in a 14 year old male. Our patient was sitting with his feet elevated, playing a video game, when he developed sudden difficulty moving his arms. Initially presenting with a negative MRI scan and la belle indifference, our patient was suspected to exhibit functional quadraparesis secondary to psychosomatization/adjustment disorder. Repeat MR imaging 7 days later revealed typical findings for FCE with SCI (irregular, pencil-like T2 hyperintensity in the ventral cervical/upper thoracic cord and owl’s eye pattern on axial images). Six months later, the diagnosis of FCE remains predominant. Our patient continues to improve with occupational and physical therapy. Ambulatory efforts and bladder function continue to progress. To improve functional gains, the patient is being considered for a chemodenervation procedure. Conclusion: Our case reveals that FCE can occur during physical inactivity and present without concurrent pain. Outcome regarding pediatric fibrocartilaginous embolism is highly variant; however, the two largest outcomes reported were either patient death or discharge.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)441-446
Number of pages6
JournalChild's Nervous System
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Fibrocartilaginous embolism
  • Ischemic myelopathy
  • Spinal cord infarction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Clinical Neurology


Dive into the research topics of 'Pediatric fibrocartilaginous embolism inducing paralysis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this