Cerebrospinal fluid area and syringogenesis in Chiari malformation type I

J Neurosurg 134:825–830, 2021

Syringogenesis in Chiari malformation type I (CM-I) is thought to occur secondary to impaction of the cerebellar tonsils within the foramen magnum (FM). However, the correlation between the CSF area and syringogenesis has yet to be elucidated. The authors sought to determine whether the diminution in subarachnoid space is associated with syringogenesis. Further, the authors sought to determine if syrinx resolution was associated with the degree of expansion of subarachnoid spaces after surgery.

METHODS The authors performed a retrospective review of all patients undergoing posterior fossa decompression for CM-I from 2004 to 2016 at the University of Virginia Health System. The subarachnoid spaces at the FM and at the level of the most severe stenosis were measured before and after surgery by manual delineation of the canal and neural tissue area on MRI and verified through automated CSF intensity measurements. Imaging and clinical outcomes were then compared.

RESULTS Of 68 patients, 26 had a syrinx at presentation. Syrinx patients had significantly less subarachnoid space at the FM (13% vs 19%, p = 0.0070) compared to those without syrinx. Following matching based on degree of tonsillar herniation and age, the subarachnoid space was significantly smaller in patients with a syrinx (12% vs 19%, p = 0.0015). Syrinx resolution was associated with an increase in patients’ subarachnoid space after surgery compared with those patients without resolution (23% vs 10%, p = 0.0323).

CONCLUSIONS Syrinx development in CM-I patients is correlated with the degree to which the subarachnoid CSF spaces are diminished at the cranial outlet. Successful syrinx reduction is associated with the degree to which the subarachnoid spaces are increased following surgery.