The aims of this study were to characterize syringomyelia in patients with lipomyelomeningocele (LMMC) and investigate the association between the presence of a syrinx and patient neurological deficits.
Patients with LMMC who had been admitted between 2007 and 2020 were included in the study. Syringomyelia on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was classified into three groups: true syrinx, early syrinx, and presyrinx. The correlation of clinical deficits (at birth, new onset, and progressive) and type of lipoma with the presence and type of syrinx was studied.
Among a total of 140 patients, the median age was 2.5 (IQR 1.3–9) years. Neurological deficits were present at birth in 75 (53.6%) patients, but 67 (47.9%) had new-onset deficits or progression of their birth deficits. The most common type of spinal lipoma was the transitional type (75.7%). Thirty-nine (27.9%) patients had a syrinx (37 with a true syrinx, 2 with an early syrinx), and 25 (17.9%) patients had a presyrinx. There was no significant correlation between the presence of a syrinx and patient neurological deficits. However, patients with a syrinx that was not adjacent to the lipoma (≥ 1 vertebral level away) had a higher incidence of deficits at birth (p = 0.045), whereas those with a syrinx spanning ≥ 5 vertebral levels had a higher incidence of progressive neurological deficits (p = 0.04). Six (75%) of 8 patients in whom serial MRI had shown syrinx progression had clinical worsening.
Syrinx location with respect to the spinal lipoma, syrinx length, and progressive syringomyelia may have clinical significance in patients with LMMC.