2019 Volume 3 Issue 1 Pages 12-16
Postoperative C5 palsy (C5 palsy) is defined as de novo or aggravating muscle weakness mainly at the C5 region with slight or no sensory disturbance after cervical spine surgery. The features of C5 palsy are as follows: 1) one-half of patients are accompanied by sensory disturbance or intolerable pain at the C5 region; 2) 92% of patients have hemilateral palsy; 3) almost all palsy occurs within a week after surgery; 4) the incidence is almost the same between the anterior and posterior approaches to the cervical spine; 5) the prognosis is relatively good even in patients with severe muscle weakness. Even now, the precise causes of C5 palsy have not yet been revealed. From the viewpoint of the kinds of nerve tissue involved, the uncertain causes of C5 palsy are divided into two theories: 1) the segmental spinal cord disorder theory and 2) the nerve root injury theory. In the former, the segmental spinal cord, particularly the anterior horn cells, is thought to be chemically damaged because of preoperative ischemia and/or the aggression of reactive oxygen during postoperative reperfusion. By contrast, in the latter, the anterior rootlet and/or nerve root are believed to be mechanically damaged because of compression force and/or distraction force. In this theory, the features of C5 palsy can be well explained from anatomical viewpoints. Additionally, various countermeasures have been proposed, such as the intermittent relaxation of the tension of the hooks to the multifidus muscles during surgery; prophylactic foraminotomy to decompress C5 nerve root; prevention of excessive posterior shift of the spinal cord, which may cause the tethering effect of the nerve root; and prevention of excessive postoperative lordotic alignment of the cervical spine. These countermeasures have been proved effective, and may support the nerve root injury theory as the main conjectured theory on the causes of C5 palsy.