White cord syndrome is an extremely rare complication of cervical decompressive surgery, characterized by serious postoperative neurological deficits in the absence of apparent surgical complications. It is named after the characteristic ischemic-edematous intramedullary T2-hyperintense signal on postoperative magnetic resonance imaging and is believed to be caused by ischemic-reperfusion injury. Neurological deficits typically manifest immediately after surgery, and delayed occurrence has been reported only once.
The authors presented two cases of delayed white cord syndrome after anterior and posterior cervical decompression surgery for symptomatic ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament and ligamentum flavum, respectively. Neurological deficits manifested on postoperative day 2 (case 1) and day 8 (case 2). The patients’ conditions were managed with high-dose corticosteroids, mean arterial pressure augmentation, and early physical therapy, after which they showed partial neurological recovery at discharge, which improved further by the 3-month follow-up visit.
The authors’ aim was to raise awareness among spine surgeons about this rare but severe complication of cervical decompressive surgery and to emphasize the mainstays of treatment based on current best evidence: high-dose corticosteroids, mean arterial pressure augmentation, and early physical therapy.