Ultrasound of the Living Spinal Cord
This morning I would like to share a video of an ultrasound of the Spinal Cord. I happened on this unique view last year and I finally asked my assistant to save a video clip. Let’s dig in.
What Is the Spinal Cord?
The Spinal Cord is often thought of as the main bundle of wires that takes electrical signals to and from your brain to the other parts of your body. It has a covering called the dura and between it and the cord, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) flows. This fact has always been conceptual for me and many other physicians. However, this video of the living cord tends to make that real.
Visualizing the Spinal Cord
What’s interesting is that in some patients you can visualize the living Spinal Cord through the opening in the bones between the skull and C1. You need to have the probe transverse and it may take a little caudal and cephalad angeling, but in most, it’s an easy image to get.
The video above shows an oval which is the Spinal Cord, but there’s more going on here than just seeing the cord. Watch it closely with the video on its largest setting. Notice how it subtly pulses. This is from the Cerebrospinal fluid pumping through the living cord. In fact, it’s a stark testimony to how the Spinal Cord and nerve roots are living structures. It’s also a nod to the work of pioneers like Dr. Scott Rosa and David Harshfield, M.D. in New York and Arkansas who use CSF flow studies to track these pulses. Why is that a big deal? Because your body has to pump the CSF around your Spinal Cord, nerve roots, and brain for it to get nutrition and take waste products away. If that flow is blocked, as it is in many CCI and Chiari malformation patients, then there can spell trouble.
The upshot? Your Spinal Cord is a living thing and not just a bunch of wires that carry electrical signals. You can see that in the video, plus watching it pump never gets old!