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Hypothesis on the pathophysiology of syringomyelia based on simulation of cerebrospinal fluid dynamics
  1. H S Chang,
  2. H Nakagawa
  1. Department of Neurological Surgery, Aichi Medical University, Japan
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr H S Chang, Department of Neurological Surgery, Aichi Medical University, 21 Yazako-Karimata, Nagakute-cho, Aichi-gun, Aichi 480–1195, Japan;


Objectives: Despite many hypotheses, the pathophysiology of syringomyelia is still not well understood. In this report, the authors propose a hypothesis based on analysis of cerebrospinal fluid dynamics in the spine.

Methods: An electric circuit model of the CSF dynamics of the spine was constructed based on a technique of computational fluid mechanics. With this model, the authors calculated how a pulsatile CSF wave coming from the cranial side is propagated along the spinal cord.

Results: Reducing the temporary fluid storage capacity of the cisterna magna dramatically increased the pressure wave propagated along the central canal. The peak of this pressure wave resided in the mid-portion of the spinal cord.

Conclusions: The following hypotheses are proposed. The cisterna magna functions as a shock absorber against the pulsatile CSF waves coming from the cranial side. The loss of shock absorbing capacity of the cisterna magna and subsequent increase of central canal wall pressure leads to syrinx formation in patients with Chiari I malformation.

  • syringomyelia
  • cerebrospinal fluid dynamics
  • pathophysiology

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  • Competing interests: none declared.