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John D. Heiss, Kendall Snyder, Matthew M. Peterson, Nicholas J. Patronas, John A. Butman, René K. Smith, Hetty L. DeVroom, Charles A. Sansur, Eric Eskioglu, William A. Kammerer and Edward H. Oldfield

Object

The pathogenesis of syringomyelia in patients with an associated spinal lesion is incompletely understood. The authors hypothesized that in primary spinal syringomyelia, a subarachnoid block effectively shortens the length of the spinal subarachnoid space (SAS), reducing compliance and the ability of the spinal theca to dampen the subarachnoid CSF pressure waves produced by brain expansion during cardiac systole. This creates exaggerated spinal subarachnoid pressure waves during every heartbeat that act on the spinal cord above the block to drive CSF into the spinal cord and create a syrinx. After a syrinx is formed, enlarged subarachnoid pressure waves compress the external surface of the spinal cord, propel the syrinx fluid, and promote syrinx progression.

Methods

To elucidate the pathophysiology, the authors prospectively studied 36 adult patients with spinal lesions obstructing the spinal SAS. Testing before surgery included clinical examination; evaluation of anatomy on T1-weighted MRI; measurement of lumbar and cervical subarachnoid mean and pulse pressures at rest, during Valsalva maneuver, during jugular compression, and after removal of CSF (CSF compliance measurement); and evaluation with CT myelography. During surgery, pressure measurements from the SAS above the level of the lesion and the lumbar intrathecal space below the lesion were obtained, and cardiac-gated ultrasonography was performed. One week after surgery, CT myelography was repeated. Three months after surgery, clinical examination, T1-weighted MRI, and CSF pressure recordings (cervical and lumbar) were repeated. Clinical examination and MRI studies were repeated annually thereafter. Findings in patients were compared with those obtained in a group of 18 healthy individuals who had already undergone T1-weighted MRI, cine MRI, and cervical and lumbar subarachnoid pressure testing.

Results

In syringomyelia patients compared with healthy volunteers, cervical subarachnoid pulse pressure was increased (2.7 ± 1.2 vs 1.6 ± 0.6 mm Hg, respectively; p = 0.004), pressure transmission to the thecal sac below the block was reduced, and spinal CSF compliance was decreased. Intraoperative ultrasonography confirmed that pulse pressure waves compressed the outer surface of the spinal cord superior to regions of obstruction of the subarachnoid space.

Conclusions

These findings are consistent with the theory that a spinal subarachnoid block increases spinal subarachnoid pulse pressure above the block, producing a pressure differential across the obstructed segment of the SAS, which results in syrinx formation and progression. These findings are similar to the results of the authors' previous studies that examined the pathophysiology of syringomyelia associated with obstruction of the SAS at the foramen magnum in the Chiari Type I malformation and indicate that a common mechanism, rather than different, separate mechanisms, underlies syrinx formation in these two entities. Clinical trial registration no.: NCT00011245.

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John D. Heiss, Giancarlo Suffredini, René Smith, Hetty L. DeVroom, Nicholas J. Patronas, John A. Butman, Francine Thomas and Edward H. Oldfield

Object

Craniocervical decompression for Chiari malformation Type I (CM-I) and syringomyelia has been reported to fail in 10%–40% of patients. The present prospective clinical study was designed to test the hypothesis that in cases in which syringomyelia persists after surgery, craniocervical decompression relieves neither the physiological block at the foramen magnum nor the mechanism of syringomyelia progression.

Methods

The authors prospectively evaluated and treated 16 patients with CM-I who had persistent syringomyelia despite previous craniocervical decompression. Testing before surgery included the following: 1) clinical examination; 2) evaluation of the anatomy using T1-weighted MR imaging; 3) assessment of the syrinx and CSF velocity and flow using cine phase-contrast MR imaging; and 4) appraisal of the lumbar and cervical subarachnoid pressures at rest, during a Valsalva maneuver, during jugular compression, and following the removal of CSF (CSF compliance measurement). During surgery, ultrasonography was performed to observe the motion of the cerebellar tonsils and syrinx walls; pressure measurements were obtained from the intracranial and lumbar intrathecal spaces. The surgical procedure involved enlarging the previous craniectomy and performing an expansile duraplasty with autologous pericranium. Three to 6 months after surgery, clinical examination, MR imaging, and CSF pressure recordings were repeated. Clinical examination and MR imaging studies were then repeated annually.

Results

Before reexploration, patients had a decreased size of the CSF pathways and a partial blockage in CSF transmission at the foramen magnum. Cervical subarachnoid pressure and pulse pressure were abnormally elevated. During surgery, ultrasonographic imaging demonstrated active pulsation of the cerebellar tonsils, with the tonsils descending during cardiac systole and concomitant narrowing of the upper pole of the syrinx. Three months after reoperation, patency of the CSF pathways was restored and pressure transmission was improved. The flow of syrinx fluid and the diameter of the syrinx decreased after surgery in 15 of 16 patients.

Conclusions

Persistent blockage of the CSF pathways at the foramen magnum resulted in increased pulsation of the cerebellar tonsils, which acted on a partially enclosed cervical subarachnoid space to create elevated cervical CSF pressure waves, which in turn affected the external surface of the spinal cord to force CSF into the spinal cord through the Virchow-Robin spaces and to propel the syrinx fluid caudally, leading to syrinx progression. A surgical procedure that reestablished the CSF pathways at the foramen magnum reversed this pathophysiological mechanism and resolved syringomyelia. Elucidating the pathophysiology of persistent syringomyelia has implications for its primary and secondary treatment.

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Bernhard Zünkeler, Richard E. Carson, Jeff Olson, Ronald G. Blasberg, Hetty Devroom, Robert J. Lutz, Stephen C. Saris, Donald C. Wright, William Kammerer, Nicholas J. Patronas, Robert L. Dedrick, Peter Herscovitch and Edward H. Oldfield

✓ Hyperosmolar blood-brain barrier disruption (HBBBD), produced by infusion of mannitol into the cerebral arteries, has been used in the treatment of brain tumors to increase drug delivery to tumor and adjacent brain. However, the efficacy of HBBBD in brain tumor therapy has been controversial. The goal of this study was to measure changes in vascular permeability after HBBBD in patients with malignant brain tumors. The permeability (K1) of tumor and normal brain blood vessels was measured using rubidium-82 and positron emission tomography before and repeatedly at 8- to 15-minute intervals after HBBBD. Eighteen studies were performed in 13 patients, eight with glioblastoma multiforme and five with anaplastic astrocytoma.

The HBBBD increased K1 in all patients. Baseline K1 values were 2.1 ± 1.4 and 34.1 ± 22.1 µl/minute/ml (± standard deviation) for brain and tumor, respectively. The peak absolute increases in K1 following HBBBD were 20.8 ± 11.7 and 19.7 ± 10.7 µl/minute/ml for brain and tumor, corresponding to percentage increases of approximately 1000% in brain and approximately 60% in tumor. The halftimes for return of K1 to near baseline for brain and tumor were 8.1 ± 3.8 and 4.2 ± 1.2 minutes, respectively. Simulations of the effects of HBBBD made using a very simple model with intraarterial methotrexate, which is exemplary of drugs with low permeability, indicate that 1) total exposure of the brain and tumor to methotrexate, as measured by the methotrexate concentration-time integral (or area under the curve), would increase with decreasing infusion duration and would be enhanced by 130% to 200% and by 7% to 16%, respectively, compared to intraarterial infusion of methotrexate alone; and 2) exposure time at concentrations above 1 µM, the minimal concentration required for the effects of methotrexate, would not be enhanced in tumor and would be enhanced by only 10% in brain.

Hyperosmolar blood-brain barrier disruption transiently increases delivery of water-soluble compounds to normal brain and brain tumors. Most of the enhancement of exposure results from trapping the drug within the blood-brain barrier, an effect of the very transient alteration of the blood-brain barrier by HBBBD. Delivery is most effective when a drug is administered within 5 to 10 minutes after disruption. However, the increased exposure and exposure time that occur with methotrexate, the permeability of which is among the lowest of the agents currently used clinically, are limited and the disproportionate increase in brain exposure, compared to tumor exposure, may alter the therapeutic index of many drugs.

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Edward H. Oldfield, Karin Muraszko, Thomas H. Shawker and Nicholas J. Patronas

✓ The mechanisms previously proposed for the progression of syringomyelia associated with Chiari I malformation of the cerebellar tonsils are controversial, leave many clinical observations unexplained, and underlie the prevalence of different operations currently used as initial treatment. To explore the mechanism of syringomyelia progression in this setting, the authors used anatomical and dynamic (phase-contrast and phase-contrast cine) magnetic resonance (MR) imaging, and intraoperative ultrasonography to examine the anatomy and dynamics of movement of the cerebellar tonsils, the wall of the spinal cord surrounding the syrinx, and the movement of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and syrinx fluid at rest, during the respiratory and cardiac cycles, and during Valsalva maneuver in seven affected patients.

In all patients the cerebellar tonsils occluded the subarachnoid space at the level of the foramen magnum. Syringomyelia extended from the cervical to the lower thoracic segment of the spinal cord. No patient had evidence of a patent communication between the fourth ventricle and the syrinx on anatomical MR images, dynamic MR images, or intraoperative ultrasound studies. Dynamic MR images of three patients revealed abrupt downward movement of the spinal CSF and the syrinx fluid during systole and upward movement during diastole, but limited movement of CSF across the foramen magnum during the cardiac cycle. Intraoperative ultrasound studies demonstrated abrupt downward movement of the cerebellar tonsils during systole that was synchronous with sudden constriction of the spinal cord and syrinx. Decompression of the foramen magnum was achieved via suboccipital craniectomy, laminectomy of C-1 and C-2, and dural grafting, leaving the arachnoid intact. Immediately after surgery, the pulsatile downward thrust of the tonsils and constriction of the spinal cord and syrinx disappeared. Syringomyelia resolved within 1 to 6 months after surgery in all patients.

Observations by the authors suggest the following previously unrecognized mechanism for progression of syringomyelia associated with occlusion of the subarachnoid space at the foramen magnum. The brain expands as it fills with blood during systole, imparting a systolic pressure wave to the intracranial CSF that is accommodated in normal subjects by sudden movement of CSF from the basal cisterns to the upper portion of the spinal canal. With obstruction to rapid movement of CSF at the foramen magnum, the cerebellar tonsils, which plug the subarachnoid space posteriorly, move downward with each systolic pulse, acting as a piston on the partially isolated spinal CSF and producing a systolic pressure wave in the spinal CSF that acts on the surface of the spinal cord. This causes progression of syringomyelia by abruptly compressing the cord and propelling the fluid in the syrinx longitudinally with each pulse, and may be responsible for the origin and maintenance of syringomyelia by the pulsatile pressure waves forcing CSF into the cord through the perivascular and interstitial spaces. Effective treatment occurs when the systolic pressure wave transmitted by the cerebellar tonsils is eliminated by relieving the obstruction to rapid movement of subarachnoid CSF across the foramen magnum. The presence of this mechanism can be detected preoperatively on dynamic MR images and during surgery on ultrasound studies by the pulsatile excursion of the wall of the spinal cord surrounding the syrinx and by its immediate disappearance and the expansion of the syrinx during forced inspiration after decompression of the tonsils. Effective treatment is achieved with bone and dural decompression of the foramen magnum alone, without entering the arachnoid.

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Stephen C. Saris, Nicholas J. Patronas, Steven A. Rosenberg, Joseph T. Alexander, Joseph Frank, Douglas J. Schwartzentruber, Joshua T. Rubin, David Barba and Edward H. Oldfield

✓ Parenteral treatment with interleukin-2 (IL-2) is effective against certain advanced cancers outside the central nervous system. Prior to commencement of Phase II trials in patients with brain tumors, the neurological and neuroradiological features of 10 patients treated with intravenous administration of repeated doses of IL-2 were studied. Three patients had malignant gliomas, and seven patients had extracranial cancer without evidence of intracranial metastasis. All were treated with intravenous doses of 105 U/kg three times daily for up to 5 days. The patients with gliomas received cranial computerized axial tomography (CT) scans before IL-2 therapy was initiated and during the later stages of treatment. The patients with extracranial cancer under-went T2-weighted magnetic resonance (MR) imaging before and later during therapy.

After two to 11 doses of IL-2, the patients with gliomas had marked neurological deterioration that was associated with a mild to marked increase in peritumoral edema and mass effect visible on CT scans. With cessation of treatment and appropriate supportive care, all returned to their pretreatment state. The patients with extracranial cancer were either neurologically unchanged or underwent minor transient changes in mental status (lethargy and confusion). In these patients, the MR signal intensity was quantified and compared in eight anatomic regions of interest. In six of the seven patients, there were increases in gray and white matter signal intensity consistent with increased cerebral water content. The percentage changes (means ± standard error of the means) were 12.6% ± 7.3% in the gray matter and 17.0% ± 6.2% in the white matter.

This study demonstrates that treatment with a high parenteral dose of IL-2 is not tolerated by patients with gliomas due to increased cerebral edema. In patients with extracranial cancer but no brain disease, parenteral IL-2 induces an increase in the cerebral water content of both gray and white matter.