Thursday, January 27, 2011

Syringomyelia Awareness: What is Chiari Malformation?

My friend at Two Little Cavaliers is blogging Syringomyelia Awareness. Please do read her blog, she has a lot of important information about the condition and real life stories.

The first time I heard about syringomyelia was during our conversations with Annie of Ella the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Ella has syringomyelia, you might remember her story from my earlier posts.

As I learned about it I was horrified how much potential suffering this can really mean.

I include some of the information here, please visit Two Little Cavaliers to read more.

A Chiari Malformation (CM) occurs at the craniocervical junction.

This is where the skull and the top of the spine meet. At the bottom of the skull, there is a large hole called the foramen magnum. The foramen magnum allows the brainstem to exit the skull and become the spinal cord.

When the lower lobe of the brain, the cerebellum, is displaced to the level of the foramen magnum (mild CM) or through the foramen magnum (severe CM) there is overcrowding in the foramen magnum. This causes obstruction of the normal flow of CSF from the brain down to the spinal cord. Many dogs with CM develop syringomyelia (SM).

Syringomyelia is a condition where cavities, or holes, called a syrinx, develop within the spinal cord.

The spinal cord is made up of grey and white matter. Using a computer network as an analogy, the grey matter can be thought of as the actual computer, whereas the white matter represents the network cables connecting the computers together.

Clinical Signs

In a study by Dr. Clare Rusbridge et al, they found that pain is related to syrinx width and symmetry. Dogs with a wider, asymmetrical syrinx are more likely to experience pain, and dogs with a small, narrow syrinx may be asymptomatic.

Ventral Horn Damage - Syrinxes that damage the ventral horn, may result in neurological deficits such as decreased spinal reflexes, muscle atrophy and limb weakness.

Dorsal Horn Damage - Syrinxes that damage the dorsal horn of the grey matter are most likely to cause persistent pain. Dr. Clare Rusbridge also found that the larger the width of the syrinx, the more likely it was that the dog would exhibit pain and scratching behaviour.

For the full article and images please visit:

Related articles:
The Dark Cloud Of Syringomyelia: Fight For Ella
Fight For Ella Continues 
Ella's MRI Results And Update


  1. thanks jana for your continual support of ella (and me) and to all this touches! You have been there always asking about her and have given us so much support.

    Ella's update: despite everything, her strength amazes me. We started lyrica which has helped a lot. We are in the process of moving to a apt on the first floor which will help her since stairs are becoming increasingly more difficult.

    Ella's neurologist, dr. Brofmann, has been wonderful along with acupuncture. Not sure about what the future holds as far as treatment, but I now believe she will see her 5th birthday in april. I didn't think that would be possible :)

  2. Annie, I love you and Ella and will help how I can. Glad the lyrica is helping! Glad she will see her 5th birthday!