Anatomy of the spinal cord in patients with meningomyelocele with and without hypoplasia or hydromyelia

D Moskowitz, D B Shurtleff, E Weinberger, J Loeser, R Ellenbogen
European Journal of Pediatric Surgery 1998, 8: 18-21
We compared the cross-sectional areas of spinal cords of patients with normal cords to the area of patients with meningomyelocele. The control group consisted of examinations of 27 patients with normal spinal cords providing 1547 axial images at 20 levels, C2-L2. The meningomyelocele group consisted of 67 MRI examinations of 41 patients, providing 4,095 axial images at 23 levels C2 to S1. Thirty-four examinations were of 21 patients with minimal hydromyelia, 7 examinations were of 3 patients with operable hydromyelia, and 26 examinations were of 17 patients without hydromyelia. In an additional analysis, we selected those meningomyelocele patients with cord tethering but without hydromyelia or hypoplasia (53 examinations of 30 patients) and compared them to symptomatic hypoplasia cases (9 examinations of 6 patients). The symptomatic hypoplasia cases were chosen because of progressive loss of muscle strength and worsening spasticity not relieved by surgical adhesiolysis. The test, retest error was 5.6% with differences between the means of repeated readings not being significant. All tests for significance were paired T test. The areas of spine levels C7-L2 for the controls were significantly larger than for the meningomyelocele patients (p = 0.000007). Including all levels C2-S1, the minimal hydromyelia cases were not significantly different from those without hydromyelia (p = 0.5). The areas C2-S1 of operable hydromyelia cases were larger than both non-shunted minimal hydromyelia (p = 0.00009) and of meningomyelocele patients without hydromyelia (p = 0.00003). The areas C7-L2, of hypoplasia cases were significantly smaller compared to the "normal" meningomyelocele cases (p = 0.0004). These data suggest that hydromyelia stimulates overgrowth of the cord, as does hydrocephalus of the brain, and that adhesiolysis procedures are of no value with hypoplasia of the spinal cord.

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