Syringomyelia is a generic term referring to a disorder in which a cyst or cavity forms within the spinal cord. This cyst, called a syrinx, can expand and elongate over time, destroying the spinal cord and eventually causing paralysis without the right procedures.
The temporary damage may result in pain, weakness, and stiffness in the back, shoulders, and extremities. Syringomyelia may also cause a loss of the ability to feel extremes of hot or cold, especially in the hands.
Physicians now use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to diagnose syringomyelia. The MRI radiographer takes images of body anatomy, such as the brain and spinal cord, in vivid detail. This test will show the syrinx in the spine or any other conditions, such as the presence of a tumor. MRI is safe, painless, and informative and has greatly improved the diagnosis of syringomyelia.
An idiopathic syrinx. See the thin light grey shape inside the spinal cord, placed at centre in the bottom half of the above image.
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