A simplified in vitro model of the spinal canal, based on in vivo magnetic resonance imaging, was used to examine the hydrodynamics of the human spinal cord and subarachnoid space with syringomyelia. In vivo magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) measurements of subarachnoid (SAS) geometry and cerebrospinal fluid velocity were acquired in a patient with syringomyelia and used to aid in the in vitro model design and experiment. The in vitro model contained a fluid-filled coaxial elastic tube to represent a syrinx. A computer controlled pulsatile pump was used to subject the in vitro model to a CSF flow waveform representative of that measured in vivo. Fluid velocity was measured at three axial locations within the in vitro model using the same MRI scanner as the patient study. Pressure and syrinx wall motion measurements were conducted external to the MR scanner using the same model and flow input. Transducers measured unsteady pressure both in the SAS and intra-syrinx at four axial locations in the model. A laser Doppler vibrometer recorded the syrinx wall motion at 18 axial locations and three polar positions. Results indicated that the peak-to-peak amplitude of the SAS flow waveform in vivo was approximately tenfold that of the syrinx and in phase (SAS5.2±0.6mls,syrinx0.5±0.3mls). The in vitro flow waveform approximated the in vivo peak-to-peak magnitude (SAS4.6±0.2mls,syrinx0.4±0.3mls). Peak-to-peak in vitro pressure variation in both the SAS and syrinx was approximately 6 mm Hg. Syrinx pressure waveform lead the SAS pressure waveform by approximately 40 ms. Syrinx pressure was found to be less than the SAS for 200ms during the 860-ms flow cycle. Unsteady pulse wave velocity in the syrinx was computed to be a maximum of 25ms. LDV measurements indicated that spinal cord wall motion was nonaxisymmetric with a maximum displacement of 140μm, which is below the resolution limit of MRI. Agreement between in vivo and in vitro MR measurements demonstrates that the hydrodynamics in the fluid filled coaxial elastic tube system are similar to those present in a single patient with syringomyelia. The presented in vitro study of spinal cord wall motion, and complex unsteady pressure and flow environment within the syrinx and SAS, provides insight into the complex biomechanical forces present in syringomyelia.

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