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Case Reports in Orthopedics
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 621476, 5 pages
Case Report

Atypical Presentation of Thoracic Disc Herniation: Case Series and Review of the Literature

Department of Neurosurgery, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, 8631 West Third Street, Suite 800E, Los Angeles, CA 90048, USA

Received 17 January 2013; Accepted 12 March 2013

Academic Editors: I. Madrazo and T. Tsurumoto

Copyright © 2013 Ali Shirzadi et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Modern imaging has revealed that thoracic disc herniation (TDH) has a prevalence of 11–37% in asymptomatic patients. Pain, sensory disturbances, myelopathy, and lower extremity weakness are the most common presenting symptoms, but other atypical extraspinal complaints, such as gastrointestinal or cardiopulmonary discomfort, may be reported. Our objective is to make providers familiar with TDH’s atypical symptoms to help avoid potential serious consequences created by a delay in diagnosis. We report the cases of two patients who each presented with atypical extraspinal symptoms secondary to a TDH. One patient presented with a chronic history of nausea, emesis, and chest tightness and MRI showed a large right paramedian disc herniation at T7-8. A second patient reported chronic constipation, buttock and leg burning pain, gait instability, and urinary frequency; an MRI of his thoracic spine demonstrated a central disc herniation at T10-11. TDH can present with vague extraspinal symptoms and unfamiliarity with these symptoms can lead to misdiagnosis with progression of the disease and unnecessary diagnostic tests and medical procedures. Therefore, TDH should be included in the differential diagnosis of patients with negative gastrointestinal, genitourinary, and cardiopulmonary system basic studies.