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A to Z: Hydromyelia

May also be called: Syringohydromyelia,Syringomyelia

Hydromyelia (hi-dro-my-EE-lee-uh) is an abnormal widening of the central canal of the spinal cord, which creates a small space that can fill with cerebral spinal fluid (CSF).

More to Know

The central nervous system is made up of the brain and the spinal cord. Cerebral spinal fluid flows in and around the central nervous system, acting as a cushion to protect the brain and spinal cord from injury. The central canal is a small tube that runs down the center of the spinal cord.

With hydromyelia, part of the central canal dilates, or becomes wider, creating a cavity that can fill with CSF. The fluid may not flow normally, the cavity may expand, and it can put pressure on the spinal cord and damage nerves. This can cause symptoms like pain and weakness in the arms and legs, headaches, and numbness in the neck.

Hydromyelia is usually limited to infants and children who have brain-related birth defects. In some cases, it can be caused by an injury, infection, or tumor that affects the spinal cord. Sometimes, hydromyelia causes only mild symptoms and doesn’t require treatment. If it causes moderate or severe symptoms, however, it’s usually treated surgically to re-establish the normal flow of cerebral spinal fluid.

Keep in Mind

In some cases, hydromyelia is mild with minimal or no symptoms. In more severe cases, surgery may relieve symptoms, but the procedure can have potentially dangerous complications. Some people with hydromyelia may need more than one surgery to see improvement.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.