Observations on the caudal end of the spinal cord


  • This investigation was supported in part by grants from the U. S. Public Health Service 1 R01 NS 08904-02 and the Oregon Heart Association.


The development of the structural pattern of the lower sacral and coccygeal segments of the spinal cord in human, rabbit and monkey embryos and fetuses has been studied. The changes observed in serial sections from above downward are outlined, beginning with typical sections through the lower sacral cord. Among the changes, other than diminution in size of the spinal cord and reduction in size of the lower spinal nerves, there is a gradual disappearance of the posterior funiculus. As this occurs the gray matter appears to spread dorsally and the central canal widens. The gray matter becomes reduced in size and the lateral funiculus extends farther dorsally. A little lower down, the gray matter of the alar plate is reduced further in size and there is corresponding enlargement of the central canal. This enlargement constitutes the terminal ventricle. The spinal cord rapidly becomes smaller as both the fibers and the gray matter are diminished. In some specimens, fibers decussate dorsal to the lower end of the terminal ventricle. Little remains of the lower end of the spinal cord except the ependymal wall of the central canal and the surrounding fiber bundles. The shape and size of the lower end of the central canal is subject to variations.

In the lower part of the spinal cord a longitudinal bundle on each side is formed by fiber contributions from the anterior horn cells in the basal plates. This bundle contributes fibers to the fifth sacral and the first and second coccygeal nerves. It is designated the sacrococcygeal fasciculus.