To diagnose syringomyelia, your doctor will begin by asking about your medical history and doing a complete physical examination.
In some cases, syringomyelia may be discovered incidentally during a spine MRI or computerized tomography (CT) scan conducted for other reasons.
If your doctor suspects syringomyelia, you'll likely undergo tests which may include:
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Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). An MRI of your spine and spinal cord is the most reliable tool for diagnosing syringomyelia.
An MRI uses radio waves and a strong magnetic field to produce detailed images of your spine and spinal cord. If a syrinx has developed within your spinal cord, your doctor will be able to view it on the MRI.
In some cases, a specialist will inject a dye into a blood vessel in your groin, which travels through blood vessels to your spine and reveals tumors or other abnormalities.
An MRI may be repeated over time to monitor the progression of syringomyelia.
Computerized tomography (CT) scan. A CT scan uses a series of X-rays to create a detailed view of your spine and spinal cord.
A CT scan may show if you have tumors or other spine conditions.
- Syringomyelia fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/syringomyelia/detail_syringomyelia.htm. Accessed Sept. 17, 2013.
- Papadakis MA, et al. Current Medical Diagnosis & Treatment 2013. 52nd ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2013. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aID=13162&searchStr=syringomyelia. Accessed Sept. 17, 2013.
- Eisen A. Disorders affecting the spinal cord. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Sept. 17, 2013.
- Sekula RF, et al. The pathogenesis of Chiari I malformation and syringomyelia. Neurological Research. 2011;33:232.
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- Support & resources: Find support. American Syringomyelia and Chiari Alliance Project. http://asap.org/index.php/resources/find-support/. Accessed Sept. 19, 2013.
- Support groups. American Chronic Pain Association. http://www.theacpa.org/Support-Groups. Accessed Sept. 19, 2013.