Origin of Syrinx Fluid in Syringomyelia: A Physiological Study

Neurosurgery 84:457–468, 2019

The origin of syrinx fluid is controversial.

OBJECTIVE: To elucidate themechanisms of syringomyelia associated with cerebrospinal fluid pathway obstruction and with intramedullary tumors, contrast transport from the spinal subarachnoid space (SAS) to syrinx was evaluated in syringomyelia patients.

METHODS: We prospectively studied patients with syringomyelia: 22 with Chiari I malformation and 16 with SAS obstruction-related syringomyelia before and 1 wk after surgery, and 9 with tumor-related syringomyelia before surgery only. Computed tomographymyelography quantified dye transport into the syrinx before and 0.5, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 22 h after contrast injection by measuring contrast density in Hounsfield units (HU).

RESULTS: Before surgery, more contrast passed into the syrinx in Chiari I malformation related syringomyelia and spinal obstruction-related syringomyelia than in tumor-related syringomyelia, as measured by (1) maximum syrinx HU, (2) area under the syrinx concentration-time curve (HU AUC), (3) ratio of syrinx HU to subarachnoid cerebrospinal fluid (CSF; SAS) HU, and (4) AUC syrinx/AUC SAS. More contrast (AUC) accumulated in the syrinx and subarachnoid space before than after surgery.

CONCLUSION: Transparenchymal bulk flow of CSF from the subarachnoid space to syrinx occurs in Chiari I malformation-related syringomyelia and spinal obstruction-related syringomyelia. Before surgery, more subarachnoid contrast entered syringes associated with CSF pathway obstruction than with tumor, consistent with syrinx fluid originating from the subarachnoid space in Chiari I malformation and spinal obstruction-related syringomyelia and not from the subarachnoid space in tumor-related syringomyelia. Decompressive surgery opened subarachnoid CSF pathways and reduced contrast entry into syringes associated with CSF pathway obstruction.