Surgical treatment of syringomyelia. Favorable results with syringoperitoneal shunting
The authors reviewed the clinical findings, radiological evaluation, and operative therapy of 39 patients with syringomyelia. Syringoperitoneal (SP) shunting was used in 15 patients and other procedures were used in 24 patients. Follow-up periods ranged from 1 1/2 to 12 years. During the period of this study, metrizamide myelography in conjunction with early and delayed computerized tomography scanning replaced all other diagnostic procedures in patients with syringomyelia. Preoperative accuracy for the two procedures was 87%. The most common symptoms were weakness (79%), sensory loss (67%), pain (38%), and leg stiffness (28%). Surgery was most effective in stabilizing or alleviating pain (100%), sensory loss (81%), and weakness (74%); spasticity, headache, and bowel or bladder dysfunction were less likely to be reversed. Approximately 80% of patients with idiopathic and posttraumatic syringomyelia and 70% of those with arachnoiditis improved or stabilized. Better results were obtained in patients with less severe neurological deficits, suggesting the need for early operative intervention. A higher percentage of patients had neurological improvement with SP shunting than with any other procedure, especially when SP shunting was the first operation performed. Patients treated with SP shunts also had the highest complication rate, most often shunt malfunction. These results indicate that SP shunting is effective in reversing or arresting neurological deterioration in patients with syringomyelia.