A Porous Finite Element Model of the Motion of the Spinal Cord



The medical condition syringomyelia is characterized by the formation of large fluid-filled cavities in the spinal cord (called syrinxes in the medical literature). The exact mechanism by which these cavities form is not fully understood, although it has been theorized that changes in the pressure of the fluid surrounding the spinal cord could be responsible. There have been some studies carried out for the pressure levels in the cerebrospinal fluid [BW81], but none of these is over the time scales that are necessary to verify that the pressure changes are the cause of syringomyelia. Generally, detailed experimental data is needed over a period of months or even years in order to verify this hypothesis.

The alternative is to develop a mathematical model of the spinal cord and the surrounding liquid. A number of mathematical models of the spinal cord have been developed by applying various analytical and numerical methods to simulate the motion of the spinal cord and the surrounding liquid [CDB05, LEB06].


Spinal Cord Liquid Phase Porous Medium Void Fraction Element Mesh 
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    Bertram, C.D., Brodbelt, A.R, Stoodley, M.A.: The origins of syringomyelia: numerical models of fluid/structure interactions in the spinal cord. J. Biomech. Engng., 127, 1099–1109 (2005).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Bilston, L.E., Fletcher, D.F., Stoodley, M.A.: Focal spinal arachnoiditis increases subarachnoid space pressure: a computational study. Clinical Biomech., 21, 579–584 (2006).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Williams, B.: Simultaneous cerebral and spinal fluid recording: 2. Cerebrospinal dissociation with lesions at the foramen magnum. Acta Neuro., 59, 123–142 (1981).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Boston 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of BrightonBrightonUK
  2. 2.Hurstwood Park Neurological UnitBrightonUK

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