Definition of Syringomyelia
Syringomyelia is damage to the spinal cord due to the formation of a fluid-filled area within the cord.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
The fluid buildup seen in syringomyelia may be a result of , tumors of the spinal cord, or birth defects (specifically, “chiari malformation,” in which part of the brain pushes down onto the spinal cord at the base of the skull).
There may be no symptoms, or symptoms may include:
Signs and tests
A neurologic examination may show loss of sensation or movement caused by compression of the spinal cord.
The goals of treatment are to stop the spinal cord damage from getting worse and to maximize functioning. Surgery to relieve pressure in the spinal cord may be appropriate. Physical therapy may be needed to maximize muscular function.
Untreated, the disorder gets worse very slowly, but it eventually causes severe disability. Surgical decompression usually stops the progression of the disorder, with about 50% of people showing significant improvement in neurologic function after surgical decompression.
Daniel B. Hoch, PhD, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 6/16/2010