Structure Of The Spinal Cord

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A. Components (Figure 2-1)

1. Gray matter of the spinal cord consists of neuronal cell bodies and is divided into the dorsal horn, ventral horn, and lateral horn.

2. White matter of the spinal cord consists of neuronal fibers and is divided into the dorsal funiculus, ventral funiculus, and lateral funiculus.

3. The ventral median fissure is a distinct surface indentation that is present at all levels of the spinal cord. It is related to the anterior spinal artery.

4. The dorsal median fissure is a surface indentation that is less distinct than the ventral median fissure. It is present at all levels of the spinal cord.

5. The dorsal intermediate septum is a surface indentation that is present only at and above vertebra T6. It distinguishes ascending fibers within the gracile fasciculus (from the lower extremity) from ascending fibers within the cuneate fasciculus (from the upper extremity).

6. The conus medullaris is the end of the spinal cord. It is located at vertebral level LI in the adult and at vertebral level L3 in the newborn.

7. The cauda equina consists of the dorsal and ventral nerve roots of spinal nerves L2 through coccygeal 1. These nerve roots travel in the subarachnoid space below the conus medullaris.

8. The filum terminale is an extension of the pia mater that reaches from the conus medullaris to the end of the dural sac at vertebral level S2, where it joins the dura. The dura continues caudally as the filum of the dura mater (or coccygeal ligament), which attaches to the dorsum of the coccyx bone.

B. Meninges and spaces (see Figure 2-1)

1. The epidural space is located between the vertebra and the dura mater. This space contains fat and the internal vertebral venous plexus.

2. The dura mater is the tough, outermost layer of the meninges.

3. The subdural space is located between the dura mater and the arachnoid.

4. The arachnoid is a filmlike, transparent layer that is connected to the pia mater by trabeculations.

5. The subarachnoid space is located between the arachnoid and the pia mater. This space is filled with cerebrospinal fluid.

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