Brown-Sequard syndrome is a lesion in the spinal cord that causes weakness or paralysis on one side of the body, with numbness on the opposite side. The spinal cord is damaged in an individual with Brown-Sequard syndrome, but not completely detached.
This rare neurological condition is most frequently caused by a puncture wound to the spinal cord, often due to a stab or gunshot wound. However, it can also be caused by a tumor, blunt force trauma to the spinal cord, a blockage in the blood vessels, or diseases such as tuberculosis or multiple sclerosis. It is unclear how many people in the United States have Brown-Sequard syndrome, but the number is estimated at about 11,000 new cases each year. The syndrome is most common among men ages 16 to 30.
Symptoms of Brown-Sequard can come about gradually, or may appear all at once. Sufferers may experience numbness, sensory changes, or strange sensations in addition to paralysis. Physicians diagnose the syndrome based on a physical examination of the patient's spine and extremities. If the doctor suspects Brown-Sequard syndrome, he or she will typically order an MRI scan.
Typically, treatment for Brown-Sequard syndrome varies depending on its cause, and the symptoms are often treated with steroid shots. Physical, occupational, and recreational therapy are usually important as well, so that the patient can return to daily activities if possible and avoid complications. Though spinal stabilization surgery can be helpful in some cases, it is not typically recommended. Complications of Brown-Sequard syndrome can include bowel impaction, urinary tract infections, and pressure ulcers.