Background: Posterior fossa decompression with expansive duraplasty is the first-line surgical approach for the treatment of symptomatic syringomyelia associated with Chiari malformation. Despite good decompression, the clinical failure rate is reported to be up to 26%. A syringosubarachnoid (S-S) shunt may be used as a secondary option.
Methods: In this paper we describe a single-institution experience of three cases of holocord syringomyelia–Chiari complex treated with foramen magnum decompression, expansive duraplasty and an S-S shunt carried out in a single-stage single approach. Following a standard suboccipital craniectomy, patients were submitted to syrinx fenestration and simultaneous insertion of an S-S shunt through a 1-mm posterior midline myelotomy at the C2 level prior to expansive dural reconstruction.
Results: Postoperative imaging showed immediate reduction of the holocord cavities. Preoperative neurological deficits rapidly improved significantly and were stabilized at follow-up.
Conclusion: In our experience the positioning of the shunt catheter at a high level of the spinal cord (C2) did not add a significant risk of morbidity and obviated the need for a second operation and/or a separate incision in cases of clinical failure. This technique avoided the risk associated with a second surgery and its morbidity, and allowed prompt clinical recovery.
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