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Jennifer Strahle, Karin M. Muraszko, Hugh J. L. Garton, Brandon W. Smith, Jordan Starr, Joseph R. Kapurch II,, and Cormac O. Maher

OBJECT

Syrinx size and location within the spinal cord may differ based on etiology or associated conditions of the brain and spine. These differences have not been clearly defined.

METHODS

All patients with a syrinx were identified from 14,118 patients undergoing brain or cervical spine imaging at a single institution over an 11-year interval. Syrinx width, length, and location in the spinal cord were recorded. Patients were grouped according to associated brain and spine conditions including Chiari malformation Type I (CM-I), secondary CM (2°CM), Chiari malformation Type 0 (CM-0), tethered cord, other closed dysraphism, and spinal tumors. Syringes not associated with any known brain or spinal cord condition were considered idiopathic. Syrinx characteristics were compared between groups.

RESULTS

A total of 271 patients with a syrinx were identified. The most common associated condition was CM-I (occurring in 117 patients [43.2%]), followed by spinal dysraphism (20 [7.4%]), tumor (15 [5.5%]), and tethered cord (13 [4.8%]). Eighty-three patients (30.6%) did not have any associated condition of the brain or spinal cord and their syringes were considered idiopathic. Syringes in patients with CM-I were wide (7.8 ± 3.9 mm) compared with idiopathic syringes (3.9 ± 1.0, p < 0.0001) and those associated with tethered cord (4.2 ± 0.9, p < 0.01). When considering CM-I–associated and idiopathic syringes, the authors found that CM-I–associated syringes were more likely to have their cranial extent in the cervical spine (88%), compared with idiopathic syringes (43%; p < 0.0001). The combination of syrinx width greater than 5 mm and cranial extent in the cervical spine had 99% specificity (95% CI 0.92–0.99) for CM-I–associated syrinx.

CONCLUSIONS

Syrinx morphology differs according to syrinx etiology. The combination of width greater than 5 mm and cranial extent in the cervical spine is highly specific for CM-I–associated syringes. This may have relevance when determining the clinical significance of syringes in patients with low cerebellar tonsil position.

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Jennifer Strahle, Karin M. Muraszko, Joseph Kapurch, J. Rajiv Bapuraj, Hugh J. L. Garton, and Cormac O. Maher

Object

Chiari malformation Type I (CM-I) with an associated spinal syrinx is a common pediatric diagnosis. A better understanding of the relative age-related prevalence and MR imaging characteristics of these associated conditions may lead to improved treatment decisions.

Methods

The authors performed a retrospective review of 14,116 consecutive individuals 18 years of age or younger who had undergone brain or cervical spine MR imaging at the University of Michigan between November 1997 and August 2008. In the patients with CM-I, demographic, clinical, and radiographic information was recorded.

Results

Five hundred nine children (3.6%) with CM-I were identified. Among these patients, 23% also had a spinal cord syrinx, and 86% of the syringes were found in the cervical spine. The MR imaging prevalence of CM-I with a syrinx was 1.2% in girls and 0.5% in boys (p < 0.0001). The severity of impaired CSF flow at the foramen magnum was associated with the amount of tonsillar herniation (p < 0.0001) and conformation of the tonsils (p < 0.0001). Patients with CM-I were treated surgically in 35% of cases; these patients exhibited more severe tonsillar herniation (p < 0.0001) and impaired CSF flow (p < 0.0001) as compared with those who did not undergo surgery. On imaging, 32% of all the patients with CM-I were considered symptomatic by the treating physician. Patients were more likely to be considered symptomatic if they were female, had a syrinx, displayed abnormal tonsillar pulsations, or had a greater amount of tonsillar herniation.

Conclusions

In this study the authors describe the age-related prevalence and MR imaging characteristics of CM-I and its association with a syrinx and other abnormalities in a large group of children who underwent MR imaging for any indication. Syringes are more common in older children, in girls, and in patients with a greater degree of tonsillar descent and CSF flow impairment.

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Jennifer Strahle, Karin M. Muraszko, Steven R. Buchman, Joseph Kapurch, Hugh J. L. Garton, and Cormac O. Maher

Object

Chiari malformation (CM) Type I is frequently associated with craniosynostosis. Optimal management of CM in patients with craniosynostosis is not well-established. The goal of this study was to report on a series of pediatric patients with both craniosynostosis and CM and discuss their management.

Methods

The authors searched the medical records of 383 consecutive patients treated for craniosynostosis at a single institution over a 15-year period to identify those with CM. They recorded demographic data as well as surgical treatment and outcomes for these patients. When MR imaging was performed, cerebellar tonsillar descent was recorded and any other associated findings, such as hydrocephalus or spinal syringes, were noted.

Results

A total of 29 patients with both CM and craniosynostosis were identified. Of these cases, 28% had associated occipital venous abnormalities, 45% were syndromic, and 52% also had hydrocephalus. Chiari malformation was more likely to be present in those patients with isolated lambdoid synostosis (55%), multisuture synostosis (35%), and pansynostosis (80%), compared with patients with coronal synostosis (6%) or sagittal synostosis (3%). All patients underwent surgical repair of craniosynostosis: 16 had craniosynostosis repair as well as CM decompression, and 13 patients did not undergo CM decompression. Of the 7 patients in whom craniosynostosis repair alone was performed, 5 had decreased tonsillar ectopia postoperatively and 5 had improved CSF flow studies postoperatively. Both patients with a spinal syrinx had imaging-documented syrinx regression after craniosynostosis repair. In 12 patients in whom CM was diagnosed after primary craniosynostosis repair, 5 had multiple cranial vault expansions and evidence of elevated intracranial pressure. In 5 cases, de novo CM development was documented following craniosynostosis repair at a mean of 3.5 years after surgery.

Conclusions

Chiari malformation is frequently seen in patients with both multi- and single-suture lambdoid craniosynostosis. Chiari malformation, and even a spinal cord syrinx, will occasionally resolve following craniofacial repair. De novo development of CM after craniosynostosis repair is not unusual.

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Jennifer Strahle, Karin M. Muraszko, Joseph Kapurch, J. Rajiv Bapuraj, Hugh J. L. Garton, and Cormac O. Maher

Object

The natural history of the Chiari malformation Type I (CM-I) is incompletely understood. The authors report on the outcome of a large group of patients with CM-I that were initially selected for nonsurgical management.

Methods

The authors identified 147 patients in whom CM-I was diagnosed on MR imaging, who were not offered surgery at the time of diagnosis, and in whom at least 1 year of clinical and MR imaging follow-up was available after the initial CM-I diagnosis. These patients were included in an outcome analysis.

Results

Patients were followed clinically and by MR imaging for a mean duration of 4.6 and 3.8 years, respectively. Of the 147 patients, 9 had new symptoms attributed to the CM-I during the follow-up interval. During this time, development of a spinal cord syrinx occurred in 8 patients; 5 of these patients had a prior diagnosis of a presyrinx state or a dilated central canal. Spontaneous resolution of a syrinx occurred in 3 patients. Multiple CSF flow studies were obtained in 74 patients. Of these patients, 23 had improvement in CSF flow, 39 had no change, and 12 showed worsening CSF flow at the foramen magnum. There was no significant change in the mean amount of cerebellar tonsillar herniation over the follow-up period. Fourteen patients underwent surgical treatment for CM-I. There were no differences in initial cerebellar tonsillar herniation or CSF flow at the foramen magnum in those who ultimately underwent surgery compared with those who did not.

Conclusions

In patients with CM-Is that are selected for nonsurgical management, the natural history is usually benign, although spontaneous improvement and worsening are occasionally seen.