Object: This study was conducted to evaluate the results of shunting procedures for syringomyelia.
Methods: In a follow-up analysis of 42 patients in whom shunts were placed in syringomyelic cavities, the authors have demonstrated that 21 (50%) developed recurrent cyst expansion indicative of shunt failure. Problems were encountered in patients with syringomyelia resulting from hindbrain herniation, spinal trauma, or inflammatory processes. A low-pressure cerebrospinal fluid state occurred in two of 18 patients; infection was also rare (one of 18 patients), but both are potentially devastating complications of shunt procedures. Shunt obstruction, the most common problem, was encountered in 18 patients; spinal cord tethering, seen in three cases, may account for situations in which the patient gradually deteriorated neurologically, despite a functioning shunt.
Conclusions: Placement of all types of shunts (subarachnoid, syringoperitoneal, and syringopleural) may be followed by significant morbidity requiring one or more additional surgical procedures.