anaesthetic into the cerebrospinal fluid
in the spinal canal to block
tions before they reach the
It is used mainly during
surgery on the lower abdomen and legs.
spinal cord A cylinder of
that runs from the
, down the cen-
tral canal in the
vertebra. Below that, the nerve roots con-
tinue within the canal as
Grey matter, the spinal cord's core, con-
tains the cell bodies of nerve cells.
Areas of white matter (tracts of nerve
fibres running lengthwise) surround the
grey matter. Sprouting from the cord on
each side at regular intervals are the sen-
sory and motor spinal nerve roots. The
small nodule (ganglion) in each sensory
root comprises nerve cell bodies. Nerve
roots combine to form the
that link the spinal cord to all regions of
the trunk and limbs. The entire spinal
cord is bathed in
surrounded by the
The nerve tracts in the white matter act
mainly as highways for sensory informa-
tion passing up to the brain or motor
signals passing down. However, the cord
processes some sensory information
itself and provides motor responses
without involving the brain. Many
actions are controlled in this way.
The spinal cord may be injured by
infections such as
but can cause serious damage.
spinal fusion Major surgery to join 2 or
It is perfor-
med if abnormal movement between
adjacent vertebrae causes severe back
pain or may damage the spinal cord.
spinal injury Damage to the
sometimes to the
injury is most often the result of falling
from a height or of a road traffic accident.
Damage to the
usually causes severe pain and
swelling of the affected area. Damage to
the spinal cord results in
loss of sensation below the site of injury.
of the spine are carried out to
determine the extent of damage. If the
bones are dislocated, surgery is needed
to manipulate them back into position.
Treatment with the drug
within a few hours of an injury
aids recovery from spinal-cord damage.
Surgery may be needed to remove any
pressure on the cord, but damaged nerve
tracts cannot be repaired.
may stop joints locking and muscles
contracting as the result of paralysis.
If there is no spinal-cord damage,
recovery is usually complete. In cases of
ment may occur for up to
spinal nerves A set of 31 pairs of
that connect to the
nerves emerge in
rows from either side
of the spinal cord and leave the
through gaps between adjacent
The nerves then branch out to
supply all parts of the trunk, arms, and
legs with sensory and motor nerve fibres.
nerve root ,
, Grey matter
. White matter
OF SPINAL CORD