This information is provided by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD).
Fibrocartilaginous embolism (FCE) is a rare type of embolism (sudden blocking of an artery) that occurs in the spinal cord. FCE occurs when materials that are usually found within the vertebral disc of the spine enter into the nearby vascular system (veins and arteries) and block one of the spinal cord vessels. The signs and symptoms of FCE often develop after a minor or even unnoticed “triggering event” such as lifting, straining, or falling. Symptoms of FCE may include neck and/or back pain, progressive muscle weakness, and paralysis.
The exact underlying cause of FCE is poorly understood. Most cases occur sporadically in people with no family history of the disease. Diagnosis is based on imaging of the spinal cord and ruling out other causes of a blockage of the vascular system within the spinal cord. Treatment is generally focused on preventing possible complications and improving quality of life with medications and physical therapy.
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