Anesthetic and Obstetric Management of Syringomyelia During Labor and Delivery: A Case Series and Systematic Review

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Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Syringomyelia is a rare, slowly progressive neurological condition characterized by the presence of a syrinx within the spinal cord. Consensus regarding the safest mode of delivery and anesthetic management in patients with syringomyelia remains controversial and presents management dilemmas. This study reviews the cases of syringomyelia at our institution and provides a systematic review of the literature to guide decisions regarding labor and delivery management.

METHODS:

A retrospective review of cases at our hospital from 2002 to 2014 and a systematic review of the literature from 1946 to 2014 were undertaken. Hospital records and electronic databases were interrogated using International Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision codes and the keywords “syringomyelia,” “syringobulbia,” and “pregnancy.” Data regarding demographics, diagnosis, radiology reports, neurological symptoms, mode of delivery, anesthetic management, and maternal-fetal outcomes were collected.

RESULTS:

We collected and analyzed data on a total of 43 pregnancies in 39 patients. The most common location for syrinx was in the cervicothoracic region (41.9%). The large majority of patients (n = 34; 87%) demonstrated signs and symptoms associated with syringomyelia before delivery. Syringomyelia associated with Arnold Chiari malformation was documented in 49% (n = 21) cases. General anesthesia was the most commonly used (n = 21/30, 70%) anesthetic technique for cesarean delivery. The majority (n = 9/13, 69%) of patients had an epidural sited for labor analgesia. There were no maternal or neonatal complications associated with neuraxial anesthesia; however, 3 cases (14%) raised concerns regarding general anesthesia including difficult intubation, transient worsening of neurological symptoms postpartum, and prolonged muscle paralysis after atracurium.

CONCLUSIONS:

Despite concerns regarding aggravation of the syrinx with vaginal delivery, this mode of delivery has never caused any documented long-term worsening of neurological condition. All techniques of anesthesia have been performed successfully without major lasting complications. All cases necessitate patient counseling and individualized multidisciplinary involvement to ensure maternal safety.

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