Chiari I malformation related syringomyelia: radionuclide cisternography as a predictor of outcome
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Background. This prospective study, conducted in patients with Chiari I malformation (C I) related syringomyelia who underwent posterior decompression and duroplasty, utilizes radionuclide cisternography in order to study the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) dynamics at the foramen magnum and to predict the clinical outcome following surgery.
Methods. 17 consecutive patients of C I with syringomyelia (but without hydrocephalus or fixed atlanto-axial dislocation), underwent a detailed neurological examination and were assigned a clinical disability score based on the modified Klekamp and Samii score. A radionuclide cisternography (using Tc99m-DTPA) was performed via the lumbar route and the ascent of the tracer was followed utilizing a gamma camera immediately after injection and then sequentially after 1, 2, 4, 6 and 24 hours. After posterior decompression and duroplasty, the modified Klekamp and Samii score was repeated at follow-up visits (range: 3 months to one year) along with radionuclide cisternography at 3 months, and MR imaging at 6 months.
Findings. Three patterns of tracer flow were observed: a) rapid flow (n=7); b) supratentorial subarachnoid delay (n=7); and, c) foramen magnum block (n=3). The patients having foramen magnum block had the poorest clinical scores on admission. At follow up, there was an improvement in the clinical scores so that the mean scores in all three categories reached nearly the same level. Following posterior decompression, the radionuclide cisternography performed in 10 patients showed a rapid flow of the tracer without any obstruction. The syrinx resolved in 4 of the 11 patients in whom an MRI was done.
Interpretation. The patients with C I with syringomyelia may often have a free flow of tracer across the FM. Posterior decompression and duroplasty provides maximum clinical relief in patients with a demonstrable foramen magnum block on radionuclide cisternography while those with a normal flow have less relief. The symptomatology related to brain-stem compression immediately responds to the surgical procedure but the syrinx-induced signs and symptoms of spinal cord dysfunction persist.
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