Chromosomal and Genetic Conditions


What Is Syringomyelia?

MRI of Chiari of syrinx before and after decompression.

MRI of Chiari of syrinx before and after decompression

Syringomyelia (pronounced se-ringo-my-EEL-e-ah) is a cyst in the center of the spinal cord that is filled with fluid.

The cyst, also called a syrinx (pronounced se-rinks), can form anywhere along the spinal cord. It can get larger and longer over time. This puts pressure on the spinal cord. The pressure can cause symptoms. If not treated, it may also eventually cause nerve damage.

Syringomyelia in Children

Children who have other problems involving the brain and spinal cord often have syringomyelia too. Many times, these other neurological problems are present when the baby is born (congenital). Congenital problems that can cause syringomyelia include:

Other childhood conditions, such as spinal cord tethering or a spinal cord tumor, can also cause syringomyelia.

Not all children with these conditions develop syringomyelia. But any of the conditions can change the normal flow of a child's cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). The cerebrospinal fluid often collects inside the spinal cord to form a cyst.

Children can also develop syringomyelia later on in life. Conditions that may trigger the formation of a cyst include:

  • Injury to the neck or spine
  • Meningitis  
  • Tumors  

Syringomyelia can also occur without a clear cause.

Syringomyelia at Seattle Children's

Seattle Children's has a great deal of experience treating syringomyelia. We also treat the related conditions that can cause this problem.

Damage to the spinal cord can worsen quickly. It is important to diagnose and treat problems right away. Sometimes the treatment is surgery. Our neurosurgeons are experts in treating children with Chiari 1 malformations. Often, these children also have syringomyelia. Seattle Children's is a national referral center for children with Chiari 1 malformation. We see children from all over the country who have this condition.