Syringohydromyelia is frequently identified on spinal imaging. The literature provides little guidance to decision making regarding the need for follow-up or treatment. The purpose of this study was to review the authors' experience in managing pediatric syringohydromyelia of unknown cause.
A single-institution retrospective review of all cases involving pediatric patients who underwent spinal MRI from 2002 to 2012 was conducted. Patients with idiopathic syringohydromyelia (IS) were identified and categorized into 2 subgroups: uncomplicated idiopathic syrinx and IS associated with scoliosis. Clinical and radiological course were analyzed.
Ninety-eight patients (50 female, 48 male) met the inclusion criteria. Median age at diagnosis of syrinx was 11.9 years. Median maximum syrinx size was 2 mm (range 0.5–17 mm) and spanned 5 vertebral levels (range 1–20 vertebral levels). Thirty-seven patients had scoliosis. The most common presenting complaint was back pain (26%). Clinical follow-up was available for 78 patients (80%), with a median follow-up of 20.5 months (range 1–143 months). A neurological deficit existed at presentation in 36% of the patients; this was either stable or improved at last follow-up in 64% of cases. Radiological follow-up was available for 38 patients (39%), with a median duration of 13 months (range 2–83 months). There was no change in syrinx size in 76% of patients, while 16% had a decrease and 8% had an increase in syrinx size. Thirty-six patients had both clinical and radiological follow-up. There was concordance between clinical and radiological course in 14 patients (39%), with 11 patients (31%) showing no change and 3 patients (8%) showing clinical and radiological improvement.
No patients had concurrent deterioration in clinical and radiological course. One patient with scoliosis and muscular dystrophy underwent direct surgical treatment of the syrinx and subsequently had a deteriorated clinical course and decreased syrinx size.
There remains a paucity of data regarding the management of pediatric IS. IS in association with scoliosis can complicate neurosurgical decision making. There was no concordance between radiological syrinx size increase and clinical deterioration in this cohort, indicating that surgical decision making should reflect clinical course as opposed to radiological course.