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George M. Ghobrial, Sara Beygi, Matthew J. Viereck, Joshua E. Heller, Ashwini Sharan, Jack Jallo, James S. Harrop and Srinivas Prasad

Syringomyelia is a potentially debilitating disease that involves abnormal CSF flow mechanics; its incidence after traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) is approximately 15%. Treatment consists of restoration of CSF flow, typically via arachnoidolysis and syrinx decompression. The authors present a case of pronounced syringomyelia in a patient with concomitant severe cervical myelomalacia to demonstrate unilateral C-5 palsy as a potential complication of aggressive syrinx decompression at a remote level.

A 56-year-old man with a remote history of SCI at T-11 (ASIA [American Spinal Injury Association] Grade A) presented with complaints of ascending motor and sensory weakness into the bilateral upper extremities that had progressed over 1 year. MRI demonstrated severe distortion of the spinal cord at the prior injury level of T10–11, where an old anterior column injury and prior hook-rod construct was visualized. Of note, the patient had a holocord syrinx with demonstrable myelomalacia. To restore CSF flow and decompress the spinal cord, T-2 and T-3 laminectomies, followed by arachnoidolysis and syringopleural shunt placement, were performed. Postoperatively on Day 1, with the exception of a unilateral deltoid palsy, the patient had immediate improvement in upper-extremity strength and myelopathy. He was discharged from the hospital on postoperative Day 5; however, at his 2-week follow-up visit, a persistent unilateral deltoid palsy was noted. MRI demonstrated a significant reduction in the holocord syrinx, no neural foraminal stenosis, and a significant positional shift of the ventral spinal cord. Further motor recovery was noted at the 8-month follow-up.

Syringomyelia is a debilitating disease arising most often as a result of traumatic SCI. In the setting of myelomalacia with a pronounced syrinx, C-5 palsy is a potential complication of syrinx decompression.

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George M. Ghobrial, Sara Beygi, Matthew J. Viereck, Christopher M. Maulucci, Ashwini Sharan, Joshua Heller, Jack Jallo, Srinivas Prasad and James S. Harrop


One often overlooked aspect of spinal epidural abscesses (SEAs) is the timing of surgical management. Limited evidence is available correlating earlier intervention with outcomes. Spinal epidural abscesses, once a rare diagnosis carrying a poor prognosis, are steadily becoming more common, with one recent inpatient meta-analysis citing an approximate incidence of 1 in 10,000 admissions with a mortality approaching 16%. One key issue of contention is the benefit of rapid surgical management of SEA to maximize outcomes. Timing of surgical management is definitely one overlooked aspect of care in spinal infections. Therefore, the authors performed a retrospective analysis in which they evaluated patients who underwent early (evacuation within 24 hours) versus delayed surgical intervention (> 24 hours) from the point of diagnosis, in an attempt to test the hypothesis that earlier surgery results in improved outcomes.


A retrospective review of a prospectively maintained adult neurosurgical database from 2009 to 2011 was conducted for patients with the diagnostic heading: epidural abscess, infection, osteomyelitis, osteodiscitis, spondylodiscitis, and abscess. The primary end point for each patient was neurological grade, measured as an American Spinal Injury Association Impairment Scale grade using hospital inpatient records on admission and discharge. Patients were divided into early surgical (< 24 hours) and delayed surgical cohorts.


Eighty-seven consecutive patients were identified (25 females; mean age 55.5 years, age range 18–87 years). Fifty-four patients received surgery within 24 hours of admission (mean time from admission to incision, 11.2 hours), and 33 underwent surgery longer than 24 hours (mean 59 hours) after admission. Of the 54 patients undergoing early surgery 45 (85%) had a neurological deficit, whereas in the delayed surgical group 21 (64%) of 33 patients presented with a neurological deficit (p = 0.09). Patients in the delayed surgery cohort were significantly older by 10 years (59.6 vs 51.8 years, p = 0.01). With regard to history of prior revision, body mass index, intravenous drug abuse, tobacco use, prior radiation therapy, diabetes, chronic systemic infection, and prior osteomyelitis, there were no significant differences. There was no significant difference between early and delayed surgery groups in neurological grade on presentation, discharge, or location of epidural abscess. The most common organism isolated was Staphylococcus aureus (n = 51, 59.3%). The incidence of methicillin-resistant S. aureus was 21% (18 of 87).


Evacuation within 24 hours appeared to have a relative advantage over delayed surgery with regard to discharge neurological grade. However, due to a limited, variable sample size, a significant benefit could not be shown. Further subgroup analyses with larger populations are required.