Syringomyelia is a fluid-filled hole that forms in the spinal cord. Over time, it damages the spinal cord.
The fluid buildup in syringomyelia may be caused by:
The fluid-filled hole usually begins in the neck area. It expands slowly, putting pressure on the spinal cord and slowly causing damage.
There may be no symptoms, or symptoms may include:
Other symptoms that may occur with this disease are:
Exams and Tests
A nervous system (neurologic) exam may show a loss of feeling or movement caused by pressure on the spinal cord.
Other tests that may be done include:
The goals of treatment are to stop the spinal cord damage from getting worse and to improve function.
Surgery may be needed to relieve pressure in the spinal cord. Physical therapy may be needed to improve muscle function.
A person with syringomyelia may need to have ventriculoperitoneal shunting, in which a catheter (thin, flexible tube) is inserted to drain the fluid buildup.
Without treatment, the disorder may get worse very slowly. Over time, it may cause severe disability.
Surgery usually stops the condition from getting worse. Nervous system function will improve in about half the people who have surgery.
Without treatment, the condition may lead to:
Possible complications of surgery include:
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of syringomyelia.
There is no known way to prevent this condition, other than avoiding injuries to the spinal cord. Getting treated right away slows the disorder from getting worse.
Rekate HL. Spinal cord disorders. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme J, Schor N, Behrman RE, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 598.
Review Date: 5/28/2014
Reviewed By: Joseph V. Campellone, MD, Division of Neurology, Cooper University Hospital, Camden, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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