The spinal cord is surrounded by cerebrospinal fluid (spinal fluid) throughout its course in the spinal canal. The spinal fluid serves as a buffer of fluid that surrounds the spinal cord providing protection and insulation from movements and trauma to the body. The spinal fluid is kept in place by two thin membranes- the arachnoid and dura. The arachnoid is a very thin see through membrane that is suspended in the spinal fluid while the dura is a slightly thicker and stronger membrane that surrounds the spinal fluid space.
A ventral spinal cord herniation may occur if a breach or weakness of the dura occurs. Spinal fluid can leak through this opening causing headaches as part of a condition called spontaneous intracranial hypotension. In rare circumstances, the spinal cord may be pushed forward and protrude through the breach in the dura to produce a ventral spinal cord herniation. This condition usually occurs in the thoracic spine and can cause numbness and weakness in the legs with walking difficulty as well as problems with bowel and bladder function. Treatment consists of microsurgical correction of the herniated spinal cord and repair of the abnormal opening of the dura. A video of a successful micro-neurosurgery for a Ventral Spinal Cord Herniation by Dr. Paul McCormick is illustrated below.