Syringobulbia is a term which has been clinically applied to brain stem symptoms or signs in patients with syringomyelia. Syringobulbia clefts are found on investigation or at necropsy caused by cutting outwards of the CSF under pressure from the fourth ventricle into the medulla. These should be differentiated from the ascending syringobulbia which may occur from upward impulsive fluid movements in a previously established syringomyelia. Clinical analysis of 54 patients suggests that bulbar features are most often found with neither of the above mechanisms but are due to the effects of pressure differences acting downward upon the hind-brain with consequent distortion of the cerebellum and brainstem, traction on cranial nerves or indentation of the brain-stem by vascular loops. The commonest symptoms in the 54 patients were headache (35), vertigo (27), dysphonia or dysarthria (21), trigeminal paraesthesiae (27), dysphagia (24), diplopia (16), tinnitus (11), palatal palsy (11) and hypoglossal involvement (11). Careful attention to hydrocephalus is advisable before craniovertebral surgery, but the decompression of the hindbrain and the correction of craniospinal pressure dissociation remains the mainstay of surgical treatment. The results of careful surgery are good, 45 of the 54 cases reported improvement. Most of the reported deterioration occurred in a few patients who did conspicuously badly.
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