Post-traumatic syringomyelia: a review of the cases presenting in a regional spinal injuries unit in the north east of England over a 5-year period

Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2005 May 15;30(10):1206-10. doi: 10.1097/01.brs.0000162277.76012.0b.


Study design: Retrospective study of the management of patients with a confirmed diagnosis of post-traumatic syringomyelia (PTS) in a regional spinal injuries unit.

Objectives: To investigate the incidence of PTS in a regional spinal injuries unit, and to assess mode of presentation, management, and subsequent outcome.

Summary of background data: Majority of patients male, mean age 44 years (range 33-60 years), with thoracic spinal cord injury (SCI). Most PTS developed within 5 years after injury (range 6 months to 25 years) and presented with reduced sensation. Fifty percent had surgical intervention at the time of SCI, and 50% managed conservatively. Four patients had additional spinal injury pathology not corrected at time of surgery.

Methods: Retrospective analysis of the case notes of all patients with a confirmed diagnosis of PTS (n = 16). Demographic details obtained and details of the original injury and subsequent clinical course and management noted.

Results: Incidence of PTS = 0.02%. Magnetic resonance imaging scanning performed in 56% with PTS. The majority of PTS developed around the site of the original lesion. The most common method of management was insertion of a syringoperitoneal shunt (44%). Thirty-one percent improved after surgery, 31% remain stable. One patient died. The symptoms of 3 patients continue to deteriorate slowly despite surgical intervention.

Conclusions: Incidence of PTS are lower in our study than that quoted in the literature. Benefits of initial surgical management of SCI in reducing development of PTS are unclear. Benefits of surgical management of PTS are unclear. Additional studies are required as this may influence future management of spinal cord injured patients.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • England / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spinal Cord / pathology
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / complications
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / pathology
  • Spinal Injuries / complications
  • Spinal Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Spinal Injuries / pathology
  • Syringomyelia / epidemiology*
  • Syringomyelia / etiology
  • Syringomyelia / pathology