A spinal syrinx is a potentially very serious anatomical abnormality that exists within the interior of the spinal cord itself. A syrinx is described as a fluid-filled hollow space within the cord, which sometimes expands and spreads in both length and width, slowly destroying the spinal cord. Not all syrinxes are problematic, although all present risk factors for future catastrophic health concerns if they do grow larger or longer.
This treatise details syrinx formation in the spinal cord, as well as explaining the effects of these structural irregularities on the patient’s health and functionality.
What is a Spinal Syrinx?
The spinal cord has a narrow space hollow which runs through the center. When a syrinx occurs, this cavity is abnormally filled with cerebral spinal fluid, expanding the space inside the spinal cord. A true syrinx is located at an interior location of the cord which is not lined with protective ependymal cells. Being that these cells help insulate the actual neurological tissue of the cord itself, the pressure from the syrinx exerts force directly into the neurological tissues of the spinal cord. Obviously, this can become a big problem for any patient.
Potential results of syrinx formation can include neurological dysfunction, myelopathy, infection, paralysis and even death. There are no nonsurgical treatments which demonstrate any benefits and most surgical interventions generally also offer disappointing curative results.
A syrinx condition can come about due to congenital reasons, trauma or idiopathic reasons.
Many syrinxes are associated with Chiari malformation, while others may be harmless congenital defects which present few risks.
Back injury can be possible cause of spontaneous or subsequent syrinx formation in some patients.
The condition which describes being affected by a syrinx is called syringomyelia, while a closely related condition called hydromyelia is similar, but the interior fluid is insulated from the actual neurological tissue inside the cord by the presence of ependymal cells.
Syrinxes can be easily imaged using MRI technology, although some may show up on other types of diagnostic testing, such as a myelogram.
Spinal Syrinx Scare
When a recent thoracic MRI showed evidence of a small syrinx in my spinal cord, I was very worried to say the very least. I know how devastating this condition can be, but it seems that my care providers are not overly concerned with it.
I do not have Arnold Chiari malformation and the positioning and appearance of the syrinx makes the condition seem likely to be the result of an injury or a congenital defect. I know I must monitor the spinal syrinx for some time, to ensure that it does not enlarge or cause problematic symptoms. However, I hope that all will be well.
Follow-up studies have shown that the original diagnosis may have been incorrect, since the area imaged seems to be normal in the last study. I am hoping this turns out to be the case, but will continue to stay closely connected to my neurologist, just to be sure.
If you have been diagnosed with a syrinx, it is crucial to receive attention from a spinal neurologist or neurosurgeon who specializes in the condition. Using a basic primary care provider for treatment when it comes to such a potentially devastating spinal issue may be ill-advised. Also, be sure to do lots of research, since the more you know, the better prepared you will be to deal with the possibility of symptoms in your future, if and when they occur.