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2020 Aug 18

Rev Neurol (Paris)

Syringomyelia and hydromyelia: Current understanding and neurosurgical management.


Leclerc A, Matveeff L, Emery E
Rev Neurol (Paris). 2020 Aug 18.
PMID: 32826067.


Syringomyelia is a rare disorder in which a fluid-filled cyst forms within the spinal cord, resulting in myelopathy. Meanwhile, the abnormal dilatation of the central canal is referred to as hydromyelia or slit-like syrinx. The most prevailing classification is based on anatomical features and pathogeny rather than pathophysiological mechanisms. It is usual to distinguish foraminal syringomyelia related mainly to abnormalities at the craniocervical junction, non-foraminal syringomyelia dealing with any cause of arachnoiditis (infection, inflammation, trauma…) and more rarely syringomyelia associated with intramedullary tumors. Although many pathophysiological theories have been argued over time, the prevailing one is that disturbances in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) flow in the sub-arachnoid spaces disrupt flow velocity leading to the syrinx. Symptoms of paralysis, sensory loss and chronic pain commonly develop during the third/fourth decades of life. The natural history of syringomyelia is typically one of gradual, stepwise neurological deterioration extending over many years. Diagnosis is based on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) including excellent morphological sequences (T1-, T2-, FLAIR-, T2*-, enhanced T1-) and dynamic MRI with careful study of CSF velocity (CISS, cine-MR sequences). Surgical management is at first dedicated to treat the cause of the syringomyelia, mainly to re-establish a physiological CSF pathway in the subarachnoid spaces. Mostly, the surgical goal is to enlarge the craniocervical junction with duraplasty. Other surgical strategies such as arachnoidolysis or shunt procedures are performed based on the pathogenic mechanisms or as second-line treatment. Medical treatments are also necessary as chronic pain is the main long-lasting symptom. As evolutive syringomyelia is a severe disease with a high impact on quality of life, it is recommended to treat without delay. There is no evidence for surgery for incidental asymptomatic syringomyelia or hydromyelia. Finally, syringomyelia associated with intramedullary tumors resolves spontaneously after tumor resection. Syringomyelia is a rare disease, which requires a dedicated multidisciplinary approach, emphasizing the need for a nationwide scientific organization so as to offer optimal care to the patient.