Giant anterior arachnoid cyst associated with syringomyelia: implications for treatment and follow-up.


STUDY DESIGN: A case report of a unique anterior intradural spinal arachnoid cyst (ISAC) associated with syringomyelia. OBJECTIVE: To discuss the surgical treatment and follow-up of anterior ISACs associated with syringomyelia. SUMMARY OF BACKGROUND DATA: Fenestration is commonly performed in arachnoid cysts with a large craniocaudal extension and in arachnoid cysts associated with syringomyelia. Particularly, excision of dorsal arachnoid cysts, without a shunting operation for the syrinx, achieves excellent results. However, anterior arachnoid cysts are different from dorsal cysts in having a greater craniocaudal extension and showing intracystic fibrous septae. METHODS: A 55-year-old man presented a small syringomyelic cavity at C1/C2 level and a giant anterior extramedullary intradural cystic cavity spreading from C1 to T11. A posterior laminectomy at C3 level was performed, and generous fenestration of the cyst was followed by the positioning of a cyst-subarachnoid shunt. RESULTS: After surgery, transitory relief was soon followed by a progressive worsening of symptoms. A specific kinematic-magnetic resonance imaging (K-MRI) was then carried out, showing a regular sisto-diastolic modulation of flow and normal shunt function. To define the real fluid dynamics within the cyst, the patient underwent a computed tomography-myelography (CT-M). Only a small quantity of contrast was found inside the pouch, confirming the clinical diagnosis of a poor communication within the shunt and the failure of previous surgery. CONCLUSION: This is the most extensive anterior ISAC associated with syringomyelia reported in literature until now. The treatment of extensive intradural extramedullary arachnoid cysts, especially for those located ventral to the spine and associated with syringomyelia, is still a matter of debate. In our case, fenestration and insertion of a cyst-subarachnoid shunt alone were not sufficient to restore normal CSF dynamics. In addition, we show that K-MRI may not be a proper method for postoperative follow-up of these lesions.