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Hydromyelia refers to an abnormal widening of the central canal of the spinal cord that creates a cavity in which cerebrospinal fluid (commonly known as spinal fluid) can accumulate. As spinal fluid builds up, it can put abnormal pressure on the spinal cord and damage nerve cells and their connections. Hydromyelia is sometimes used interchangeably with syringomyelia, the name for a condition that also involves cavitation in the spinal cord. In hydromyelia, the cavity that forms is connected to the fourth ventricle in the brain, and is almost always associated in infants and children with hydrocephalus or birth defects such as Chiari Malformation II and Dandy-Walker syndrome. However, syringomyelia has a closed cavity and mainly occurs in adults, most of them have Chiari malformation type 1 or suffer from spinal cord trauma. Symptoms that can occur over time include weakness of the hands and arms, stiffness in the legs; and sensory loss in the neck and arms. Some people have severe neck and arm pain. Diagnosis is made by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which reveals abnormalities in spinal cord anatomy.


In general, doctors recommend surgery for children with hydromyelia if they have moderate or severe neurological deficits. Surgical treatment restores normal flow of spinal fluid.


Surgery can relieve symptoms permanently or temporarily, but it can also cause a number of serious complications. In rare cases, hydromyelia can go away on its own without any medical intervention.

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