The “presyrinx” state: is there a reversible myelopathic condition that may precede syringomyelia?

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Object

Alteration of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) flow has been proposed as an important mechanism leading to the development of syringomyelia. We hypothesize that a “presyrinx” condition due to potentially reversible alteration in normal CSF flow exists and that its appearance may be due to variations in the competence of the central canal of the spinal cord.

Methods

Five patients with clinical evidence of myelopathy, no history of spinal cord trauma, enlargement of the cervical spinal cord with T1 and T2 prolongation but no cavitation, evidence for altered or obstructed CSF flow, and no evidence of intramedullary tumor or a spinal vascular event underwent MR imaging before and after intervention that alleviated obstruction to CSF flow.

Results

Preoperatively, all patients demonstrated enlarged spinal cords and parenchymal T1 and T2 prolongation without cavitation. Results of magnetic resonance (MR) imaging examinations following intervention in all patients showed resolution of cord enlargement and normalization or improvement of cord signal abnormalities. In one patient with severe arachnoid adhesions who initially improved following decompression, late evolution into syringomyelia occurred in association with continued CSF obstruction.

Conclusion

Nontraumatic obstruction of the CSF pathways in the spine may result in spinal cord parenchymal T2 prolongation that is reversible following restoration of patency of CSF pathways. We refer to this MR appearance as the “presyrinx” state and stress the importance of timely intervention to limit progression to syringomyelia.

Abbreviations used in this paper:CSF = cerebrospinal fluid; CT = computerized tomography; MR = magnetic resonance; PPMM = posttraumatic myelomalacic myelopathy.

Object

Alteration of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) flow has been proposed as an important mechanism leading to the development of syringomyelia. We hypothesize that a “presyrinx” condition due to potentially reversible alteration in normal CSF flow exists and that its appearance may be due to variations in the competence of the central canal of the spinal cord.

Methods

Five patients with clinical evidence of myelopathy, no history of spinal cord trauma, enlargement of the cervical spinal cord with T1 and T2 prolongation but no cavitation, evidence for altered or obstructed CSF flow, and no evidence of intramedullary tumor or a spinal vascular event underwent MR imaging before and after intervention that alleviated obstruction to CSF flow.

Results

Preoperatively, all patients demonstrated enlarged spinal cords and parenchymal T1 and T2 prolongation without cavitation. Results of magnetic resonance (MR) imaging examinations following intervention in all patients showed resolution of cord enlargement and normalization or improvement of cord signal abnormalities. In one patient with severe arachnoid adhesions who initially improved following decompression, late evolution into syringomyelia occurred in association with continued CSF obstruction.

Conclusion

Nontraumatic obstruction of the CSF pathways in the spine may result in spinal cord parenchymal T2 prolongation that is reversible following restoration of patency of CSF pathways. We refer to this MR appearance as the “presyrinx” state and stress the importance of timely intervention to limit progression to syringomyelia.

Abbreviations used in this paper:CSF = cerebrospinal fluid; CT = computerized tomography; MR = magnetic resonance; PPMM = posttraumatic myelomalacic myelopathy.

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Contributor Notes

Address reprint requests to: Nancy J. Fischbein, M.D., Department of Radiology, Box 0628, University of California, San Francisco, 505 Parnassus Avenue, San Francisco, California 94143–0628. email: Nancy.Fischbein@radiology.ucsf.edu.
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