Background: Spinal cord infarction (SCI) is a neurological emergency associated with high rates of persistent neurological deficits. Knowledge about this rare but potentially treatable condition needs to be expanded. Objective: To describe the characteristics of spontaneous SCI in a large retrospective series of patients treated at two tertiary care centers in Austria. Methods: We performed a descriptive and comparative analysis of spontaneous SCI treated at the University Hospitals of Salzburg and Graz between the years 2000 and 2020. The analysis included pre- and in-hospital procedures, clinical presentation, etiology, diagnostic certainty, reperfusion therapy, and functional outcome at discharge. Results: We identified 88 cases, 61% were ascertained in the second half of the study period. The median age was 65.5 years [interquartile range (IQR) = 56-74], 51.1% were women. Anterior spinal artery infarction was the predominant syndrome (82.9%). Demographics, vascular comorbidities, and clinical presentation did not differ between the centers. The most frequent etiology and level of diagnostic certainty were distinct, with atherosclerosis (50%) and definite SCI (42%), and unknown (52.5%) and probable SCI (60%) as front runners in Salzburg and Graz, respectively. Patients arrived after a median of 258.5 min (IQR = 110-528) at the emergency room. The first magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the spinal cord was performed after a median of 148 min (IQR = 90-312) from admission and was diagnostic for SCI in 45%. Two patients received intravenous thrombolysis (2.2%). The outcome was poor in 37/77 (48%). Conclusion: Demographics, clinical syndromes, and quality benchmarks for spontaneous SCI were consistent at two Austrian tertiary care centers. Our findings provide the foundation for establishing standards for pre- and in-hospital care to improve outcomes.
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