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Radiology. 2009 Oct;253(1):184-90. doi: 10.1148/radiol.2531082135. Epub 2009 Jun 30.

Idiopathic syringomyelia: phase-contrast MR of cerebrospinal fluid flow dynamics at level of foramen magnum.

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  • 1Departments of Neurosurgery and Radiology, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, WI 53792, USA.



To measure cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) flow velocities in the foramen magnum in patients with idiopathic syringomyelia (IS).


Patient consent for this retrospective study was waived by the institutional review board within the guidelines of HIPAA. The authors reviewed the medical records of a neurosurgery specialty clinic to identify patients with IS-that is, syringomyelia without evidence of Chiari malformation, tumor, or substantial spine trauma. Patients without syringomyelia or Chiari malformation identified from the review served as control subjects. The data of patients and control subjects who had undergone phase-contrast magnetic resonance (MR) imaging were included in the study. MR flow images were inspected for evidence of synchronous bidirectional CSF flow and heterogeneous spatial and temporal flow patterns. Peak CSF flow velocities in the IS and control groups were calculated, and differences were tested for statistical significance by using the Wilcoxon rank sum test.


Eight patients who met the criteria for IS and six who met the criteria to serve as control subjects were identified. The phase-contrast MR images obtained in five of the eight patients with IS and in none of the control subjects depicted synchronous bidirectional flow and/or large flow jets. Mean peak systolic (caudal) CSF flow velocities were 6.7 cm/sec in the IS group and 3.6 cm/sec in the control group; the difference was significant (P < .01). Mean peak diastolic (cephalic) velocities were 3.9 and 3.4 cm/sec in the IS and control groups, respectively; the difference was not significant (P = .36).


Some patients with IS have increased peak systolic CSF flow velocities.

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