The Chiari/hydrosyringomyelia complex presenting in adults with myelomeningocoele: an indication for early intervention

Spinal Cord. 1999 Apr;37(4):275-8. doi: 10.1038/


Objective: To determine how adults with myelomeningocoele who develop the Chiari/hydrosyringomyelia complex present, and to determine if surgical intervention influences outcome in these patients.

Methods: A chart review of the 220 patients who attend a clinic for adults with spina bifida and hydrocephalus (CASBAH), and follow-up of the five cases with myelomeningocoele who had surgical intervention for associated symptomatic Chiari/hydrosyringomyelia complex.

Results: Bilateral upper limb weakness and wasting were the commonest presenting symptoms (four patients). Sensory disturbance (three patients) was also common, dysphagia (one) and ataxia (one) occurring less often. The median time to surgical intervention was 36 months. Two patients had a shunting procedure performed in isolation, two foramen magnum decompression in addition to a shunting procedure and one a foramen magnum decompression. Surgical intervention did not completely reverse problems attributed to the Chiari/hydrosyringomyelia complex in any of the cases. One patient died post-operatively. Of the four who survived one had some improvement in function post-operatively, two remained static and one had further mild deterioration.

Conclusion: All adults with myelomeningocoele should be questioned about changes in upper limb function for early detection of Chiari/hydrosyringomyelia complex. Our results suggest that early intervention is needed if further deterioration is to be avoided, and to improve the chances of neurological and functional recovery.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meningomyelocele / complications*
  • Meningomyelocele / pathology
  • Meningomyelocele / surgery*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spinal Cord / pathology
  • Syringomyelia / etiology*
  • Syringomyelia / pathology
  • Syringomyelia / surgery*