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1- Introduction

2- Anatomical Overview

3- Causes

4- Treatment 


Syringomyelia is a rare neurological condition characterized by the presence of a fluid-filled cavity or cyst, called a syrinx, within the spinal cord. This syrinx can expand over time, damaging the spinal cord and causing a range of symptoms. Syringomyelia can result from a variety of causes, including spinal cord injury, meningitis, or congenital abnormalities such as Chiari malformation. Symptoms of syringomyelia can vary widely but often include pain, weakness, and sensory disturbances, typically affecting the arms and shoulders.

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Anatomical Overview

Syringomyelia is often associated with abnormalities in the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) within the spinal cord, such as obstruction of the CSF pathways or changes in CSF pressure. These abnormalities can lead to the formation of the syrinx and contribute to the progression of the condition.

The exact cause of syringomyelia can vary and may include congenital factors, such as Chiari malformation, where brain tissue extends into the spinal canal, or acquired factors, such as spinal cord injury, tumors, or inflammation. The location and size of the syrinx within the spinal cord can determine the specific symptoms experienced by individuals with syringomyelia. Symptoms often include pain, weakness, and sensory abnormalities, particularly in the arms, shoulders, and hands. Other symptoms may include muscle atrophy, loss of reflexes, and disturbances in bladder and bowel function.

Diagnosis of syringomyelia typically involves imaging studies, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to visualize the syrinx and assess its impact on the spinal cord.


  • Chiari malformation: This is a condition where brain tissue extends into the spinal canal, obstructing the normal flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and leading to the formation of a syrinx.

  • Spinal cord injury: Trauma to the spinal cord can disrupt the normal flow of CSF or cause bleeding within the spinal cord, leading to the formation of a syrinx.

  • Tumors: Tumors within the spinal cord or surrounding structures can obstruct the flow of CSF or compress the spinal cord, leading to the development of a syrinx.

  • Meningitis or other infections: Infections that affect the spinal cord can lead to inflammation and scarring, which can disrupt the normal flow of CSF and contribute to the formation of a syrinx.

  • Spinal cord tethering: This is a condition where the spinal cord is abnormally attached to surrounding tissues, which can lead to stretching and distortion of the spinal cord, contributing to the formation of a syrinx.

  • Congenital abnormalities: Some individuals may be born with abnormalities in the structure of their spinal cord or the surrounding tissues, which can increase the risk of developing syringomyelia later in life.

  • Idiopathic: In some cases, the cause of syringomyelia may be unknown, and the condition is referred to as idiopathic syringomyelia.


  • Observation: In cases where symptoms are mild and not progressing, regular monitoring with MRI scans and clinical evaluations may be recommended. This approach allows healthcare providers to track the condition and intervene if symptoms worsen.

  • Surgery: Surgical intervention is often necessary for symptomatic syringomyelia or when there is a clear underlying cause that can be addressed. Surgical options include:

    • Decompression surgery: This is commonly performed for syringomyelia associated with Chiari malformation. The procedure involves removing a small portion of the skull and sometimes part of the first cervical vertebra to create more space for the cerebellum and restore normal CSF flow.
    • Syrinx drainage: A shunt may be placed to drain the syrinx and redirect the fluid to another area of the body, such as the abdomen. This can help reduce pressure on the spinal cord and alleviate symptoms.
    • Removal of obstructions: If a tumor or other obstruction is causing the syrinx, surgical removal of the obstruction can help restore normal CSF flow and reduce the size of the syrinx.
  • Medications: Medications may be prescribed to manage pain and other symptoms associated with syringomyelia. These can include pain relievers, muscle relaxants, and anti-inflammatory drugs.

  • Physical therapy: Physical therapy can help improve strength, flexibility, and mobility, as well as manage pain and other symptoms. A tailored exercise program can be beneficial for individuals with syringomyelia.

  • Lifestyle modifications: Patients may be advised to avoid activities that exacerbate symptoms, such as heavy lifting or straining. Proper posture and body mechanics can also help reduce stress on the spinal cord.

  • Supportive care: Ongoing care and support from healthcare providers, including neurologists, neurosurgeons, and pain specialists, can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life. Counseling or support groups may also be beneficial for coping with the condition.

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