Canine Chiari Institute at Long Island Veterinary Specialists

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Breeder's Guide to Syringomyelia
As breeders, your concern for the possible presence, severity, duration, management an heritability of both Chiari-Like Malformation and Syringomyelia will likely give rise to questions that we have endeavored to anticipate and answer in a helpful and instructive manner in the appropriate areas on this site. We encourage you to visit the topics explored in the menus under each subject.


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What is syringomyelia (pronounced SIR-RIN-GO-MY-EE- LIA)?
Syringomyelia is a disease of the spinal cord characterized by fluid filled cavities (syrinxes) within the spinal cord substance (Fig 2a). Fluid is normally found in small quantities within the center of the spinal cord in a space called the central canal. This amount is so small, it is barely detectable on MRI evaluations (Fig 2b). When the fluid volume in the central canal increases a small amount, it is called hydromyelia and is believed by some to be a precursor to syrinx formation (Fig 2c). 
Last Updated ( Friday, 22 October 2010 13:24 ) Read more...

Clinical Signs

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Since most patients with syringomyelia have CLM as the underlying causative disorder, it can be difficult to discern which clinical signs are due to the CLM and which are due to the syrinx. Hyperesthesia or pain along the spine is a hallmark clinical sign of syringomyelia. Scratching activity and scoliosis are also common manifestations. Some dogs will develop clinical signs of spinal cord dysfunction (myelopathy), usually in the cervical (neck) spinal cord region.
Last Updated ( Friday, 22 October 2010 13:04 ) Read more...


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As with CLM, MR imaging is necessary to consistently diagnose syringomyelia. Myelography usually does not reveal the syrinx cavity and syringomyelia is also usually difficult or impossible to discern on CT scans. Syringomyelia appears as fluid cavitations within the spinal cord and are often multiple. It has become customary to use MR to image the brain and cervical spinal cord in dogs suspected of having CLM and syringomyelia.
Last Updated ( Monday, 18 October 2010 16:09 ) Read more...

MR Imaging

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MRI in animals is safe, however, general anesthesia is required to ensure that the patient remains motionless during the scan. At large veterinary MRI centers, patients are monitored for heart rate and rhythm, respiratory rate, body temperature, and blood pressure with specialized “MRI compatible” equipment. Scan time varies with the type of MRI used. Large magnet scanners (3 Tesla) can scan patients in 20 minutes while
Last Updated ( Friday, 22 October 2010 13:18 ) Read more...


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Since most documented syringomyelia cases are associated with CLM, the treatment of this disorder is as described under Chiari treatment. In general, the treatment of syringomyelia is aimed at restoring normal CSF flow patterns by addressing the underlying causative disorder. In cases of compression, decompression is warranted either by cranioplasty in the case of CLM, laminectomy in the case of herniated disc disease, tumor removal in cases of neoplasia, and cyst drainage in the case of intracranial or spinal cysts. Syrinx resolution is as gradual as its formation and in some cases can take as long as years. Most patients will experience some decrease in syrinx volume as early as 6 months after surgery.
Last Updated ( Monday, 11 October 2010 21:33 )

After Treatment

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What can I expect after surgery?
Cranioplasty with FMD appears to be well tolerated in dogs with CLM/SM with very few complications occurring; most dogs are hospitalized for 4-5 days depending on their clinical condition. Because cerebellar decompression is immediate, intracranial clinical signs can be expected to resolve rapidly. The reduction in syrinx size is paramount to clinical recovery.
Last Updated ( Monday, 18 October 2010 16:10 ) Read more...


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When was canine CLM/SM first discovered?
The first reports of syringomyelia in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (CKCS) appeared in 1997 almost simultaneously from the UK, South Africa and Australia. This coincided with the availability of spinal MRI for animals, however the disease was around before this time, but due to the lack of appropriate diagnostic tests, it was not recognized.
Last Updated ( Monday, 18 October 2010 16:10 ) Read more...

Common Terms

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A medical glossary with detailed explanation of common terms used in the diagnosis and treatment of Syringomyelia.
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 13 October 2010 11:19 ) Read more...

A reference guide for veterinary professionals interested in Chiari -Like Malformation and Syringomyelia. 



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