The origins of syringomyelia: Numerical models of fluid/structure interactions in the spinal cord

C. D. Bertram*, A. R. Brodbelt, M. A. Stoodley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Citations (Scopus)


A two-dimensional axi-symmetric numerical model is constructed of the spinal cord, consisting of elastic cord tissue surrounded by aqueous cerebrospinal fluid, in turn surrounded by elastic dura. The geometric and elastic parameters are simplified but of realistic order, compared with existing measurements. A distal reflecting site models scar tissue formed by earlier trauma to the cord, which is commonly associated with syrinx formation. Transients equivalent to both arterial pulsation and percussive coughing are used to excite wave propagation. Propagation is investigated in this model and one with a central canal down the middle of the cord tissue, and in further idealized versions of it, including a model with no cord, one with a rigid cord, one with a rigid dura, and a double-length untapered variant of the rigid-dura model. Analytical predictions for axial and radial wave-speeds in these different situations are compared with, and used to explain, the numerical outcomes. We find that the anatomic circumstances of the spinal cerebrospinal fluid cavity probably do not allow for significant wave steepening phenomena. The results indicate that wave propagation in the real cord is set by the elastic properties of both the cord tissue and the confining dura mater, fat, and bone. The central canal does not influence the wave propagation significantly.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1099-1109
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Biomechanical Engineering
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2005
Externally publishedYes


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