Expansive Suboccipital Cranioplasty for the Treatment of Syringomyelia Associated with Chiari Malformation
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In order to treat syringomyelia associated with adult type Chiari malformation, the authors developed a method of expansive suboccipital cranioplasty (ESC) that involves enlarging the small posterior fossa to obtain a sufficient flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). The relative effectiveness of ESC with the obex plugged and not plugged was also examined, as well as other factors influencing the operative results.
Twenty patients without arachnoid adhesion at the major cistern underwent ESC without opening the arachnoid membrane at the major cistern. After surgery, all improved with no recurrence and CSF flow study using magnetic resonance (MR) imaging showed significant improvement of the flow at the major cistern. Another 20 patients without arachnoid adhesion also underwent ESC but with obex plugging. Sixteen improved and one displayed only temporary improvement with recurrent syringomyelia due to postoperative arachnoid adhesions. The remaining three showed no change in spite of shrinkage of the syrinx on postoperative MR imaging. These three patients had displayed pre-operative symptoms over an approximately 10-year period involving almost the entire axial plain of the spinal cord, and presented a large syrinx before surgery. In 4 patients with arachnoid adhesions, all required intra-arachnoid procedures in addition to ESC.
Intra-arachnoid procedures are not necessary to facilitate restoration of CSF flow in patients without arachnoid adhesions, because ESC can release the CSF flow blockage in the major cistern even without plugging of the obex. An associated arachnoid adhesion at the major cistern or a long-standing syringomyelia with irreversible damage of the spinal cord results in a poor operative prognosis. When posterior fossa surgery fails, insufficient decompression or postoperative arachnoid adhesions at the major cistern as the cause of treatment's failure should be evaluated by CSF flow studies using phase contrast MR imaging.
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