Syringomyelia and Hydromyelia (Syrinx)​


Syringomyelia is a disease in which a cyst forms at the centre of your child’s spinal cord. The cyst (also known as syrinx) is filled with a fluid known as cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). The cyst can get larger over time and cause symptoms such as pain and weakness. 

Hydromyelia is the widening of the spinal cord central canal creating a cavity which gets filled up with cerebrospinal fluid. 

It is very difficult to distinguish between syringomyelia and hydromyelia, as both have similar clinical presentations, and therefore at times a collective term called syrinx is used to refer to the fluid collection in the spinal cord. 

There can be several causes of syringomyelia and hydromyelia, such as Chiari malformation in which brain tissue protrudes into the spinal canal, or spinal tumours and injuries. 

At first, there may be no obvious symptoms but they develop over time. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Muscle weakness

  • Slowed reflexes

  • Lack of sensitivity

  • Stiffness in the back, shoulders, arms and legs

  • Pain in your arms, neck and back

  • Loss of bowel and bladder control

  • Numbness​​

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, especially in severity, make an appointment with your specialist working with the Mind and Brain Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital.

​Your time with your doctor may be limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.

​Syringomyelia and hydromyelia can be diagnosed in a number of ways. Your doctor will first take a complete medical history and conduct a physical examination to check your child’s symptoms.

He or she will also order some laboratory tests, including Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of the spinal cord. This procedure generates computerized images of the spine that doctors can use to locate the cyst. 

A similar test known as Computerized Tomography (CT) scan which is a quick, painless, non-invasive and accurate imaging procedure may be used to generate computerized images of your body and allow doctors to examine the tumour.

​In some cases, no treatment may be required, but if the symptoms are severe enough, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove the cyst. The surgery is intended to restore normal flow of CSF by removing the pressure the cyst is placing on your child’s spinal cord. 

Doctors can perform several different types of surgeries, depending on the cause of the disease. For instance, if there is a spine abnormality causing the cyst, surgery can be used to fix it, or if there is an obstruction causing the pressure then that will be a different procedure. Depending on the tests and diagnosis, your doctor will recommend the appropriate course of action.   

Please click here for some guidelines on “what to do before your surgery”.

​Please click here for some guidelines on “what to do on the day of your surgery”.

Some of the complications associated with syringomyelia and hydromyelia are:

  • Abnormally curved spine (known as scoliosis)

  • Pain caused by damage to the spinal cord

  • Muscle weakness and loss of motor skills

Please click here for some guidelines on “what to do after your surgery”.

​The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.​



The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the ​advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider. ​