Eur J Pediatr Surg 1995; 5: 27-30
DOI: 10.1055/s-2008-1066259
Case report

© Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart · New York

Cerebrospinal Fluid Drainage for Syringomyelia

B.  Williams+ , S.  Sgouros , E.  Nenji
  • Midland Centre for Neurosurgery and Neurology, Holly Lane, Warley, West Midlands, B67 7JX, UK
Further Information

Publication History

Publication Date:
25 March 2008 (online)


Twenty-eight years of experience with syringomyelia of various causes in the syringomyelia clinic at the Midland Centre for Neurosurgery and Neurology has provided a database of 723 patients, mostly adults, with either hindbrain herniation, syringomyelia or both.

Treatment of syringomyelia by drainage has never been the optimum primary treatment on the basis that the cavity is usually secondary to some other disturbance of the cerebrospinal fluid pathways. Over this period 73 patients had either syrinx drainage (56 syringopleural, 14 syringo-subarachnoid shunts) or other procedure such as myelotomy and cord transection. Ten years after operation only 53.5% and 50% of these two groups respectively continued to remain clinically stable. A complication rate of 15.7% included fatal haemorrhage, infection and displacement of drains. At second operation or necropsy at least 5% of shunts were found to be blocked.

All the shunts were inserted without a valve and the lowering of the intrasyrinx pressure has therefore been energetic when the lower end of the drainage tube has been taken to the pleural or peritoneal cavities. This produced collapse of the cord cavities around the tip of the drainage tube and increased the likelihood of blockage. If the mechanisms which were responsible for the syringomyelia were still operative then recurrence was likely to occur alongside the drainage tube leaving the tube immured in the wall of the syrinx cavity. When hydrocephalus was present, in addition treatment of the hydrocephalus by a valved shunt to the peritoneum or to the right atrium was often effective in improving the syringomyelia. This treatment has also been used in patients without hydrocephalus. The mechanisms of improvement were unclear but this treatment stratagem has nevertheless been employed in 45 cases. In 30 out of these 45 cases the drainage of cerebrospinal fluid from outside the syrinx cavities seemed to be worthwhile; 10 patients suffered some form of complication, most of which were reversible; 8 patients were worse following surgery.

It is concluded that both drainage of the syringomyelia cavity and also extra-syrinx drainage may have a place in the management of difficult syringomyelia problems although the primary treatment should be to establish the patency of CSF pathways in both hindbrain-related and non-hindbrain-related cases.