Cervical Myelopathy Associated with Deep Neck Muscle Rhabdomyolysis after Polysubstance Abuse: A Case Report

Jari Honkaniemi, Jaana Rummukainen, Pinne Väänänen, Matti Vuorialho

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    When used appropriately, buprenorphine and oxycodone are safe drugs. They are, however, widely abused in combination with other drugs. Here we describe a case series of 8 patients with cervical myelopathy and rhabdomyolysis of the adjacent deep neck muscles after using an opioid in combination with other drugs. All patients were young males who had a previous history of polysubstance abuse. Six of the patients had used buprenorphine in combination with pregabalin and/or benzodiazepines, and one patient had used oxycodone with pregabalin and/or benzodiazepines. One patient used buprenorphine with amphetamine. After taking the drugs, they all reported feeling drowsy and then falling asleep. On waking, they noticed weakness in their extremities. However, only one patient woke with his head in a flexed position. A varying degree of tetraparesis was observed. Cerebrospinal fluid analysis revealed elevated protein levels and white blood cell count. Blood creatine kinase was elevated in 7 patients. Spinal cord MRI showed a hyperintense spinal lesion at the level of C1-Th3 vertebrae associated with rhabdomyolysis in the adjacent, paravertebral deep neck muscles. We suggest that polysubstance abuse, especially the combination of an opioid with another drug with GABA-agonistic properties, caused a compartment syndrome of the deep paravertebral muscles without excessive head flexion. This subsequently led to compression of the external vascular structures, resulting in venous congestive myelopathy.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)31-37
    Number of pages7
    JournalCase Reports in Neurology
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2022
    Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


    • Myelopathy
    • Spinal cord infarction
    • Venous hypertension

    Publication forum classification

    • Publication forum level 1

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Clinical Neurology


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