Hydromyelia and Syringomyelia
Hydromyelia and syringomyelia refer to similar conditions that involve an abnormal collection of fluid within the spinal cord. As CSF builds up, it puts pressure on the spinal cord and can damage nerve cells and their connections, leading to symptoms.
In hydromyelia (also known as syringohydromyelia), the cavity that forms is connected to the fourth ventricle (normal fluid space in the brain); and this condition is almost always associated with infants and children who have hydrocephalus or certain other types of brain-related birth defects. Syringomyelia (also known as syrinx), on the other hand, features a cavity that does not communicate with any other fluid spaces, and occurs primarily in adults who have experienced spinal cord trauma.
The symptoms of hydromyelia or syringomyelia generally occur over time, and include weakness of the extremities, pain or a heavy sensation in the neck, headaches, loss of sensation in the hands and feet, walking difficulty, problems with bladder control, stiffness in the legs, and visual disturbances.
These conditions are diagnosed through clinical neurological evaluation and by using spinal cord imaging techniques such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to visualize the fluid within the spinal cord. A physician selects the appropriate diagnostic tool based on the patient's age, clinical presentation, and the presence of known or suspected abnormalities of the brain or spinal cord.
Surgery is the primary method of treatment for hydromyelia and syringomyelia, and it is generally reserved for those individuals who have significant neurological problems. A variety of procedures for repair of these conditions exist whose goal is to restore normal flow of cerebral spinal fluid. These procedures include needle removal of the fluid within the cavity, placement of a shunt to divert the flow of CSF away from the cavity, or repair of the underlying source of abnormal CSF flow. The decision to operate is generally based on the severity of symptoms and the findings on MRI or other imaging studies. Patients are followed closely after surgery for signs of further neurological impairment. It is possible for some patients to require more than one surgery.