✓ Hypertrophy of the posterior spinal elements leading to compromise of the spinal canal and its neural elements is a well-recognized pathological entity affecting the lumbar or cervical spine. Such stenosis of the thoracic spine in the absence of a generalized rheumatological, metabolic, or orthopedic disorder, or a history of trauma is generally considered to be rare. Over a 2-year period the authors have treated six cases of thoracic myelopathy associated with thoracic canal stenosis. In four patients the deficits developed gradually and painlessly. The three older patients had a clinical profile characterized by complaints of pseudoclaudication, spastic lower limbs, and evidence of posterior column dysfunction. Two patients were younger adults with low thoracic myelopathy associated with local back pain after minor trauma. Both patients also had congenital narrowing of the thoracic spinal canal.
Oil and metrizamide contrast myelography in the prone position were of limited value in diagnosing this condition; in fact, myelography may be misleading and result in erroneous diagnosis of thoracic disc protrusion, when the principal problem is dorsal and lateral compression from hypertrophied facets. Magnetic resonance imaging and computerized tomography sector scanning were more useful in the diagnosis of this disorder than was myelography. Thoracic canal stenosis may be more common than is currently recognized and account for a portion of the failures in anterior and lateral decompression of thoracic disc herniations.