The severity and distribution of symptoms and signs in patients with syringomyelia is considered to be dependent on the longitudinal and transverse dimensions of the syrinx and it is thought that clinical examination can identify the extent of the cyst. Magnetic resonance imaging has made the anatomical localisation of intramedullary spinal lesions more exact and probably more specific than previous methods of investigation. Syrinx length, diameters, cyst:cord and cord:canal ratios have been studied in 12 patients with syringomyelia to assess whether the dimensions of the syrinx relate to the clinical findings. The length of syrinx appeared to be related to cyst diameter, cyst:cord and cord:canal ratios. Patients with a small syrinx tended to have a small cyst diameter, and small cyst:cord and cord:canal ratios. No significant relationship was found between muscle wasting or weakness, distribution of sensory loss, degree of disability or distress and the dimensions of the syrinx. These findings should be borne in mind when surgical management is being considered.
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