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Cerebrospinal Fluid Flow and Cyst Formation in the Spinal Cord

Chiari malformations and syringomyelia are conditions affecting the central nervous system of as many as one in 300 people. In other words, it is about as common as Multiple Sclerosis (MS), yet it is still relatively unknown to the layman. At Simula we aim to bring publicity to this condition as well as reseeach.

The reason why the Chiari malformation and syringomyelia is relatively unknown is probably because of the great variety of symptoms that are related to these conditions, ranging from headaches to paralysis, and they often involve severe pain and decades of suffering. The left illustration shows the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and the main structures in the brain of a healthy individual, while the picture on the right shows a Chiari malformation combined with syringomyelia. The Chiari I malformation is defined by the herniated cerebellar tonsils in the upper cervical spinal canal.

Chiari is believed to be a congenital condition. The cerebrospinal fluid system in a healthy person and in a person with Chiari I malformation although it is often not discovered until life-altering symptoms arise years or even with syringomyelia. decades later, when syringomyelia has devel- oped. Syringomyelia is a chronic, progressive degenerative disorder characterized by fluid-filled cavities within the spinal cord (see the picture on the right). The progression of syringomyelia is often slow, taking decades before life-inhibiting symptoms arise.

The abnormal anatomy of the central nervous system associated with these conditions causes abnormal flow of CSF and have led clinicians to consider the associated hydrodynamics. In fact, it is currently widely believed by both clinical researchers and interest organizations that these conditions are a "mechanics problem". In particular the condition leads to complex flow patterns such as jets, bidirectional flow, and in fact it might even be on the treshold to transition to turbulence.

At Simula, we have since 2007 worked together with neuroradiologist, Victor Haugthon, a world-leading expert on the topic. Furthermore, we collaborate and are supported by Column of Hope and collaborate with Bryn Martin at Conquer Chiari, see also the Conquer Chiari info movie: