Teamwork Necessary When Treating Patients with Syringomyelia + Scoliosis

Most orthopaedic spine surgeons and neurosurgeons have come to understand that syringomyelia plays a role in some cases of scoliosis, and that the spinal-cord condition may increase the risk of cord injury during deformity-correction surgery. In the August 19, 2020 issue of JBJS, Tan et al. investigate whether radiographic and clinical outcomes after 1-stage posterior spinal fusion to correct scoliosis secondary to syringomyelia differ between patients with syringomyelia related to Chiairi-I malformation (CIM) and those with idiopathic syringomyelia.

The short answer is “no.” Although researchers found larger preoperative syringeal parameters in the CIM group, up through 2 years after scoliosis-correction surgery, they detected no significant between-group differences in coronal/sagittal parameters or in scores from the 5 domains of the Scoliosis Research Society-22 questionnaire. Moreover, the preoperative neurological status and intraoperative neuromonitoring signals were similar in both groups.

In commenting on these findings, Kent A. Reinker, MD, points out that patients who had received preoperative neurological treatment for the syrinx were excluded from the study, so “the results … do not necessarily apply to patients who have had neurological intervention prior to scoliosis surgery.”  He strongly recommends that all patients with a syrinx be referred to a neurosurgeon for evaluation prior to any scoliosis surgery, concluding that “a working partnership between orthopaedic surgeons and their neurological colleagues is important when assessing these patients.”

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