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Neurosurgery. 1992 Aug;31(2):231-44; discussion 244-5.

Surgical treatment of syringomyelia based on magnetic resonance imaging criteria.

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Department of Neurosurgery, State University of New York, Brooklyn.


The treatment of syringomyelia includes many surgical options. We report a retrospective study of 65 patients with cavitary lesions of the spinal cord in whom the results of magnetic resonance imaging were used to develop specific treatment strategies. Intramedullary cavities were classified into three general types: 1) communicating syrinxes, which occurred with hydrocephalus and were anatomically continuous with the 4th ventricle (9 patients); 2) noncommunicating syrinxes, which were separated from the 4th ventricle by a syrinx-free segment of spinal cord (42 patients); and 3) atrophic syrinxes, which occurred with myelomalacia (14 patients). Noncommunicating syrinxes were further subdivided according to type: Chiari II malformations with hydrocephalus (5 patients), Chiari I malformations without hydrocephalus (11 patients), extramedullary compressive lesions (12 patients), spinal cord trauma (6 patients), intramedullary tumors and infections (6 patients), and multiple sclerosis (2 patients). Of the 65 patients, 39 underwent surgical treatment for progressive symptoms. Syrinxes occurring with hydrocephalus were treated empirically with a ventriculoperitoneal shunt. Excellent results were achieved in 7 of 7 patients with communicating syrinxes and in all 5 patients with Chiari II malformations. Two approaches were used in the treatment of syrinxes occurring with Chiari I malformations: Posterior fossa decompression improved symptoms but did not reduce syrinx size in 2 of 3 patients. In the third patient and in 3 patients who were not treated with decompression, shunting from the syrinx to the cerebellopontine angle cistern collapsed the cavity and resolved symptoms over the interval of follow-up (average follow-up, 1.5 years). Excision of extramedullary obstructions at the rostral end of noncommunicating syrinxes resulted in collapse or disappearance of the cavity in 6 of 7 patients. The remaining patient was treated effectively by a syringocisternal shunt. In all 4 patients with posttraumatic syringomyelia, good results were achieved by a spinal or syringocisternal shunt. Syrinxes associated with intramedullary masses were managed by biopsy or excision of the causal lesion and appropriate adjunctive therapy (6 patients). Patients with atrophic syrinxes were not operated upon except to relieve symptoms referrable to the causal lesion (4 patients). Recurrent syrinxes were not encountered in the 35 surviving patients over an average follow-up of 2.5 years. It is concluded that syringomyelia is a complex pathological disorder with several mechanisms of pathogenesis that requires a number of different treatment strategies.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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