Management and outcome of posttraumatic syringomyelia

J Neurosurg. 1996 Aug;85(2):197-205. doi: 10.3171/jns.1996.85.2.0197.


Traumatic paraplegia is the most common cause of nonhindbrain-related syringomyelia. Fifty-seven patients with a mean age of 34.3 years at presentation were treated at the Midland Centre for Neurosurgery and Neurology between 1973 and 1993. A variety of treatment strategies have been used over the years, including syringosubarachnoid and syringopleural shunts, spinal cord transection, and pedicled omental graft transposition. More recently decompressive laminectomy, subarachnoid space reconstruction and formation of surgical meningocele have been used. A total of 81 operations were performed in these patients, 69 of them at the Syringomyelia Clinic. Combinations of strategies were often chosen; the use of one strategy such as drainage did not preclude another such as transection or augmentation of the cerebrospinal fluid pathways. The overall postoperative complication rate was 12%. Problems specific to the operation type included dislodged, blocked, and infected drains (10 patients). Acute gastric dilation was seen following pedicled omental graft (one patient). At 6 years only 49% of the drains inserted still functioned. A higher than expected rate of cervical spondylotic myelopathy has been noted. Two patients developed Charcot's joints. Thirty-six patients were asked to score themselves with regard to limb function and performance of daily living activities and 30% reported improvement, particularly ion arm function. Since the use of magnetic resonance imaging has become widespread, it has become apparent that decompressive laminectomy with subarachnoid space reconstruction is effective in controlling the syrinx cavity. In complete paraplegia, spinal cord transection is an effective alternative. Pedicled omental grafting was associated with poor outcome and an increased complication rate and has been abandoned.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Adult
  • Extremities / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Complications
  • Postoperative Period
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / complications*
  • Syringomyelia / diagnosis
  • Syringomyelia / physiopathology
  • Syringomyelia / surgery*
  • Treatment Outcome