Syringomyelia is a fluid collection in the spinal cord and is also known as hydromyelia or syrinx.
There are many causes of this such as:
- Hydrocephalus (build-up of fluid in the cavities deep within the brain)
- Chiari Malformation (a condition in which brain tissue extends into the spinal canal)
- Tethered spinal cord (tissue attachments that limit the movement of the spinal cord within the spinal column)
- Arachoiditis (a progressive inflammatory disorder that affects the arachnoid or middle membrane that surrounds the brain and spinal cord)
- And a very large number without any clear cause (idiopathic)
The fluid that is collected is similar to spinal fluid. As the syrinx, expands and lengthens over time, it compresses and damages part of the spinal cord from its center outward pressing upon the nerves and presenting as associated symptoms.
- Due to direct pressure: may cause weakness, numbness, stiffness, pain, scoliosis, inability to feel hot or cold normally and incontinence to name a few. These symptoms usually come on quite gradually and depend upon the level at which the fluid collection is (in the spinal cord)
- Due to the underlying cause of the syrinx: e.g. it may be caused by a Chiari Malformation, and the symptom may be one of headaches or neck pain even though the syrinx may be lower in the spinal cord
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) has helped the neurosciences and provided a helpful tool to better understand the disease and the associated abnormalities so that a holistic approach to treatment can be taken.
Approaches to treatment:
- Treatment of the cause: (such as hydrocephalus or Chiari Malformation) and the cyst will resolve on its own
- Drain and/or eliminate the syrinx considering it as the primary problem
- Combination of both of these options: that is elimination of the cause and getting rid of the cyst
There are a number of options available and it is a decision based on the final wellbeing of the patient. Once the treatment is instilled a post-treatment MRI is undertaken to find out the results and to keep a record of the follow-up. In case of children it is possible to revert back to normal functioning of the previously affected body part once treatment is given.
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