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Open access

Successful treatment of unilateral facial nerve palsy in a pediatric patient with syringobulbia and Chiari malformation type I: illustrative case

Daniel Sherlock, Nolan J Brown, Alvin Y Chan, Jessica K Campos, and Joffre Olaya

BACKGROUND

Unlike syringomyelia, syringobulbia is not commonly observed in pediatric patients with Chiari malformation type I (CMI). Previous series have reported the incidence of syringobulbia as between 3% and 4% in these patients. Presentation is typically chronic, with the slow onset of neurological symptoms and cranial nerve (CN) palsies resulting from lower brainstem involvement. The authors report the first case of a pediatric patient with simultaneous CMI, syringobulbia, and unilateral CN VII palsy.

OBSERVATIONS

A 7-year-old male presented with right facial weakness in addition to headaches, ataxia, urinary incontinence, and falls. Magnetic resonance imaging revealed CMI with a syrinx of the cervicothoracic spine and syringobulbia. Posterior fossa decompression with duraplasty was performed without complications, and the patient was discharged home on postoperation day 5. At the 3-week follow-up, the patient’s neurological deficits had largely subsided. At the 3-month follow-up, his CN VII palsy and syringobulbia had completely resolved.

LESSONS

Pediatric CMI patients with syringomyelia are at risk for developing syringobulbia and brainstem deficits, including unilateral facial palsy. However, craniocervical decompression can prove successful in treating such deficits.

Open access

Protracted respiratory failure in a case of global spinal syringomyelia and Chiari malformation following administration of diazepam: illustrative case

Luke Bauerle, Brandon Rogowski, Aakash Shingala, Habib Emil Rafka, Timothy Webb, Brian F Saway, Edward F Kilb, Julio A Chalela, and Nathan C Rowland

BACKGROUND

Syringomyelia is defined as dilation of the spinal cord’s central canal and is often precipitated by skull base herniation disorders. Although respiratory failure (RF) can be associated with skull base abnormalities due to brainstem compression, most cases occur in pediatric patients and quickly resolve. The authors report the case of an adult patient with global spinal syringomyelia and Chiari malformation who developed refractory RF after routine administration of diazepam.

OBSERVATIONS

A 31-year-old female presented with malnutrition, a 1-month history of right-sided weakness, and normal respiratory dynamics. After administration of diazepam prior to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), she suddenly developed hypercapnic RF followed MRI and required intubation. MRI disclosed a Chiari malformation type I and syrinx extending from C1 to the conus medullaris. After decompressive surgery, her respiratory function progressively returned to baseline status, although 22 months after initial benzodiazepine administration, the patient continues to require nocturnal ventilation.

LESSONS

Administration of central nervous system depressants should be closely monitored in patients with extensive syrinx formation given the potential to exacerbate diminished central respiratory drive. Early identification of syrinx in the context of Chiari malformation and hemiplegia should prompt clinical suspicion of underlying respiratory compromise and early involvement of intensive care consultants.

Open access

Spontaneous improvement in syringomyelia in a patient with Chiari 1 malformation: illustrative case

Oyku Ozturk, Emetullah Cındıl, Hakan Emmez, Pelin Kuzucu, and Emrah Celtıkcı

BACKGROUND

“Chiari malformation” refers to a spectrum of hindbrain abnormalities characterized by impaired cerebrospinal fluid circulation through the foramen magnum. Syringomyelia is frequently found in patients with Chiari malformation type 1. Although many theories have suggested how cerebrospinal fluid enters and makes the cystic cavity in the spinal cord, the pathogenesis of syringomyelia remains controversial. This report documents a case with spontaneous resolution of syringomyelia followed up by 3-year serial magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). These kinds of cases support a more conservative approach.

OBSERVATIONS

A 59-year-old female presented to the authors’ clinic in June 2019 with a history of Chiari malformation type 1. This symptomatic patient has been followed up with serial MRI. When the last MRI was performed in August 2022, compared with previous imaging, resolution of the syringomyelia was recognized.

LESSONS

Because the natural evolution of mildly symptomatic/asymptomatic patients with syringes is unclear, these patients pose a treatment dilemma. Although surgical intervention is a widely accepted therapeutic method, a more conservative approach can be considered in cases with spontaneous resolution. Especially for patients without progressive symptoms, the surgical approach should not be considered as the first step. In view of relapses, follow-up with periodic neurological examinations and radiological imaging is preferrable.

Open access

Spinal cord stimulator for the treatment of central neuropathic pain secondary to cervical syringomyelia: illustrative case

Bryan A. Schatmeyer, Rakan Dodin, Michael Kinsman, and David Garcia

BACKGROUND

Central neuropathic pain (CNP) of the cervical and/or thoracic spinal cord has many etiologies, both natural and iatrogenic. Frequently, CNP is medically refractory and requires surgical treatment to modulate the perception of pain. Spinal cord stimulation is a modality commonly used in adults to treat this type of refractory pain; however, it is rarely used in the pediatric population.

OBSERVATIONS

The authors reported a case involving a common pediatric condition, Chiari malformation type I with syrinx, that led to a debilitating complex regional pain syndrome. The associated life-altering pain was successfully alleviated following placement of a spinal cord stimulator.

LESSONS

CNP, or the syndromic manifestations of the pain (complex regional pain syndrome), can alter an individual’s life in dramatic ways. Spinal cord stimulator placement in carefully selected pediatric patients should be considered in these difficult pain treatment paradigms.

Open access

Management of failed Chiari decompression and intrasyringeal hemorrhage in Noonan syndrome: illustrative cases

Cody J. Falls, Paul S. Page, Garret P. Greeneway, Daniel K. Resnick, and James A. Stadler III

BACKGROUND

Noonan syndrome (NS) is a rare genetic RASopathy with multisystem implications. The disorder is typically characterized by short stature, distinctive facial features, intellectual disability, developmental delay, chest deformity, and congenital heart disease. NS may be inherited or arise secondary to spontaneous mutations of genes in the Ras/mitogen activated protein kinase signaling pathways.

OBSERVATIONS

Numerous case reports exist detailing the association between NS and Chiari I malformation (CM-I), although this relationship has not been fully established. Patients with NS who present with CM-I requiring operation have shown high rates reoperation for failed decompression. The authors reported two patients with NS, CM-I, and syringomyelia who had prior posterior fossa decompressions without syrinx improvement. Both patients received reoperation with successful outcomes.

LESSONS

The authors highlighted the association between NS and CM-I and raised awareness that patients with these disorders may be at higher risk for failed posterior fossa decompression, necessitating reoperation.

Open access

Syringomyelia intermittens: highlighting the complex pathophysiology of syringomyelia. Illustrative case

Jorn Van Der Veken, Marguerite Harding, Saba Hatami, Marc Agzarian, and Nick Vrodos

BACKGROUND

Chiari Type I malformation (CM1) is a disorder recognized by caudal displacement of the cerebellar tonsils through the foramen magnum and into the cervical canal. Syringomyelia is frequently found in patients with CM1, but the pathophysiology of syringomyelia remains an enigma. As a general consensus, symptomatic patients should be treated and asymptomatic patients without a syrinx should not be treated. Mildly symptomatic patients or asymptomatic patients with a syrinx, on the other hand, pose a more challenging dilemma, as the natural evolution is uncertain. For many surgeons, the presence of a syrinx is an indication to offer surgery even if the patient is asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic.

OBSERVATIONS

The authors describe an illustrative case of a 31-year-old female with an incidental finding of a CM1 malformation and cervical syrinx in 2013. Conservative management was advocated as the patient was asymptomatic. Monitoring of the syrinx over a course of 8 years showed resolution, followed by reappearance and finally a complete resolution in 2021. A review of the literature and the possible pathophysiology is discussed.

LESSONS

The unusual course of this patient highlights the importance of guiding treatment by clinical symptoms, not radiological findings. Furthermore it reflects the complexity of the pathophysiology and the uncertain natural history of syringomyelia.

Open access

Spontaneous syrinx resolution in patient with Chiari I malformation: illustrative case

Elizabeth Gallo, Gazanfar Rahmathulla, Dinesh Rao, Kourosh Tavanaiepour, and Daryoush Tavanaiepour

BACKGROUIND

Chiari malformations include a spectrum of congenital hindbrain herniation syndromes. In patients with the most common subtype, Chiari malformation Type I, 50% to 75% develop a syrinx. The pathogenesis of syringomyelia is not well understood, with multiple theories outlined in the literature. Although the presence of a syrinx in a patient with Chiari malformation is generally accepted as an indication for surgical intervention, there are documented cases of spontaneous resolution that support a more conservative approach to management.

OBSERVATIONS

The authors reported a case of spontaneous resolution of a cervical syrinx in an adult with an unchanged Chiari malformation.

LESSONS

Given the possibility of spontaneous resolution over time, the authors believe a more conservative approach of observation with periodic surveillance, magnetic resonance imaging, and neurological examination should be considered in the management of a patient with a Chiari malformation and associated syringomyelia.

Open access

Chiari malformation type 1: are we doing less with more? Illustrative case

Giuseppe Talamonti, Erika Ferrari, and Giuseppe D’Aliberti

BACKGROUND

Classic treatment of Chiari malformation type 1 consists of foramen magnum decompression. Selected patients may require occipitocervical fixation, transoral odontoidectomy, tonsillectomy, and so forth. Treatment standardization does not yet exist, and some patients risk being overtreated.

OBSERVATIONS

A 20-year-old man with headache and Chiari malformation type 1 underwent extradural bone decompression. One year later, he was managed with the extradural section of his filum terminale. Eighteen months later, the patient underwent monitoring of intracranial pressure, occipitocervical stabilization, transoral odontoidectomy, minimally invasive subpial tonsillectomy, and occipital cranioplasty. His headache never changed, and he progressively developed hemiparesis and swallowing and respiratory disturbances. Two years later, a new magnetic resonance imaging scan showed extended syringomyelia with scarce peritonsillar subarachnoid space. The umpteenth operation consisted of the removal of a constricting epidural scar, arachnoid dissection, total tonsillectomy, creation of a wide subarachnoid space, and dural sac augmentation. The patient’s initial postoperative course was smooth, and his headache improved. However, 8 days after surgery, the patient acutely presented with vegetative disturbances and died because of malignant brainstem edema of unknown origin.

LESSONS

The story of this patient is not so uncommon. He underwent all the possible surgical treatments rather than a timely adequate osteodural decompression. Probably, he received less with more.