Hirayama disease, a cervical myelopathy characterized most commonly by a self-limiting atrophic weakness of the upper extremities, is a rare entity, scarcely reported in the literature. Diagnosis is made by spinal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which typically shows loss of normal cervical lordosis, anterior displacement of the cord during flexion, and a large epidural cervical fat pad. Treatment options include observation or cervical immobilization by collar or surgical decompression and fusion.
Here, the authors report an unusual case of a Hirayama-like disease in a young White male athlete who presented with rapidly progressive paresthesia in all 4 extremities and no weakness. Imaging showed characteristic findings of Hirayama disease as well as worsened cervical kyphosis and spinal cord compression in cervical neck extension, which has not previously been reported. Two-level anterior cervical discectomy and fusion and posterior spinal fusion improved both cervical kyphosis on extension and symptoms.
Given the disease’s self-limiting nature, and a lack of current reporting, there remains no consensus on how to manage these patients. Such findings presented here demonstrate the potentially heterogeneous MRI findings that can be observed in Hirayama disease and emphasize the utility of aggressive surgical management in young, active patients whereby a cervical collar may not be tolerated.