Hydromyelia is a spinal condition that involves an abnormal widening of the central canal of the spinal cord. This widening creates extra space where cerebrospinal fluid oftentimes builds up. As spinal fluid builds up, it can place abnormal pressure on your spinal cord and inhibit nearby nerve cell function.
In patients with hydropmyelia, the cavity that develops is connected to the fourth ventricle of the brain, and it’s typically present in infants and children who have birth defects like hydropcephalus or Chiari Malformation. A similar condition known as syringmyelia involves the development of a closed pocket of spinal fluid, and it is more common in adults.
Causes and Symptoms of Hydromyelia
There is no known direct cause of hydromyelia, but specialists believe the widening of the canal can be caused by abnormal cerebrospinal fluid flow. Other issues that have a suspected link to the onset of hydromyelia include brain and spinal cord inflammation, spinal cord tumors and tethered spinal cords.
Symptoms of the condition include:
- Weakness of the hands and arms
- Leg stiffness
- Sensory less in the neck and arms
- Mild, moderate or severe pain in the neck and arms
Diagnosis and Treatment of Hydromyelia
If your neurospecialist believes you may be dealing with hydromyelia, they will order an MRI. The MRI will be able to reveal abnormalities in the spinal cord. If hydromyelia is confirmed, the neuro team will take a close look at all of the individual factors before deciding on a treatment plan.
In most cases, surgery is recommended for children with hydromyelia if the condition is causing moderate or severe neurological deficits. In rare cases, the condition can resolve on its own, but doctors will want to keep a close eye on the canal and monitor the patient’s symptoms to ensure it’s resolving as it should. If surgery is necessary, your surgeon will perform one of three common operations.
Shunt – A shunt involves inserting a draining valve to relieve problematic spinal fluid buildup.
Posterior Fossa Decompression – A small portion of bone from the lower skull is removed to relieve pressure in the area that is causing symptoms.
Third Ventriculostomy – The neurosurgeon will create a hole in the bottom of the third ventricle of your brain to divert problematic cerebrospinal fluid flow.
Surgery often produces good results, but complications and recurrence can occur. For more information about hydromyelia treatment, reach out to Dr. Chang’s office today.