Tensile radial stress in the spinal cord related to arachnoiditis or tethering: A numerical model

C. D. Bertram*, L. E. Bilston, M. A. Stoodley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


Spinal arachnoiditis comprises fibrous scarring of the subarachnoid space, following spinal trauma or inflammation, and is often associated with syringomyelia. We hypothesised that cord-to-dura attachments could cause transient tensile cord radial stress, as pressure waves propagate. This was tested in a fluid-structure interaction model, simulating three types of cord tethering, with 'arachnoiditis' confined to a short mid-section of the cord. The annular system was excited abdominally with a short transient, and the resulting Young and Lamb waves and reflections were analysed. Radial mid-section tethering was less significant than axial tethering, which gave rise to tensile radial stress locally when the cord was not fixed cranially. Simulated as inextensible string connections to the dura, arachnoiditis caused both localised tensile radial stress and localised low pressure in the cord as the transient passed. The extent of these effects was sensitive to the relative stiffness of the dura and cord. Tensile radial stress may create a syrinx in previously normal cord tissue, and transiently lowered pressure may draw in interstitial fluid, causing the syrinx to enlarge if fluid exit is inhibited. The suggested mechanism could also explain the juxtaposition of syrinxes to regions of arachnoiditis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)701-707
Number of pages7
JournalMedical and Biological Engineering and Computing
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2008
Externally publishedYes


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