The National Institutes of Health published a review that says more than one-quarter of patients with spinal cord injuries develop syringomyelia, many of whom suffer neurological deficits that are progressive. In another publication, a study showed that progressive symptoms of post-traumatic syringomyelia can develop as soon as three months to as late as 32 years after a trauma to the spinal cord. Here's what you need to know if you have every had—or may have had—a spinal cord injury.
May have had a spinal cord injury?
The most important thing to understand about spinal cord injuries that could lead to syringomyelia is that sometimes people are not aware that they've suffered a spinal cord injury because symptoms and signs are so mild when the injury first occurs. Because of this, it is important to seek medical evaluation with an MRI immediately and treatment, if necessary, following trauma to the spine, such as from a car accident or after falling from a great height. It's always a good idea to seek car accident spinal treatment and the like if you think your back has been injured.
What is syringomyelia?
Syringomyelia is a condition that occurs in the spinal cord. The spinal cord is inside the spinal column and has cerebral spinal fluid flowing in it. It's believed that when the spinal column is damaged in some way, the damage can disrupt the flow of the cerebral spinal fluid in the spinal cord. This disruption can produce pockets of fluid, which are called syrinx. The syrinx is the defining feature of syringomyelia. Think about a creek and how a change in the banks on either side will change the flow of the water. If the change is significant enough, the water can end up swirling in one spot. This is similar to how a syrinx forms.
What are the symptoms?
The disruption in the proper flow of cerebral spinal fluid can cause a wide range of neurological deficits, including headaches, numbness or tingling, weakness in the extremities, stiffness throughout the body, loss of sensitivity, imbalance, and loss of bladder and bowel control. Since syringomyelia is progressive in nature, paralysis may set in if the condition is left untreated.
How is it treated?
There are several ways syringomyelia is treated. The method of treatment used will depend largely on the size and location of the syrinx and the scar tissue that caused the syrinx to develop. One method is to remove the scar tissue from the spinal cord and, sometimes, add a patch to allow the dura to expand. The dura is the membrane surrounding the spinal cord. Another method of treatment is to drain the syrinx with a surgically implanted shunt or stent. Another treatment option is to remove bone from the spine.