Cervical spinal cord compression and the Hoffmann sign.

Academic Article


  • Little information exists about the ability of the Hoffmann sign to predict cervical spinal cord compression. The objective of this study was to determine the correlation between the Hoffmann sign and cervical spinal cord compression in a consecutive series of patients seen by a single spine surgeon. All new patients with complaints related to their cervical spine were included. Hoffmann sign was elicited by flicking the nail of the middle finger. Any flexion of the ipsilateral thumb and/or index finger was considered positive. All imaging studies were reviewed for spinal cord compression. Cord compression was defined as flattening of the AP diameter of the spinal cord coexisting with obliteration of CSF around the cord compared to normal levels. Of 165 patients, 124 patients had imaging of their spinal canal. Review by the spine surgeon found sensitivity of the Hoffmann sign relative to cord compression was 58%, specificity 78%, positive predictive value 62%, negative predictive value 75%. 49 studies were also read by a "blinded" neuroradiologist, the sensitivity was 33%, specificity 59%, positive predictive value, 26%, negative predictive value 67%. Although attractive as a simple method of screening for cervical spinal cord compression, the Hoffmann sign, in the absence of other clinical findings, is not in our experience a reliable test.
  • Authors

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    Author List

  • Glaser JA; CurĂ© JK; Bailey KL; Morrow DL
  • Start Page

  • 49
  • End Page

  • 52
  • Volume

  • 21