Chiari Malformation

Chiari malformation is a condition in which the bottom portion of the brain sinks into the top of the spinal canal. Most cases of chiari malformation are present at birth; in rarer instances, the condition develops following an injury or illness.

Our skilled physicians and providers at the Clinical Neuroscience Institute Spine and Back Center are trained and experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of chiari malformation and associated disorders. Our team is committed to treating you and helping you live your healthiest, most productive life.

What is Chiari Malformation?

Chiari malformation is often present at birth, and occurs when the cerebellum (bottom, rear portion of the brain) dips into the top of a patient’s spinal canal. In rare cases, the condition develops at a later life stage following an illness or injury.

The cerebellum is the part of your brain that controls balance. In cases of chiari malformation, symptoms may include unsteadiness, ringing in the ears, double vision, slurred speech, trouble swallowing, and vomiting. Patients may also experience headache in the back of the head and neck, weakness in the hands, and pain in the head, neck, arms and legs. 

Diagnosing Chiari Malformation

Chiari malformation is often detected with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). An MRI of cerebrospinal fluid flow may give the physician some insight to the impact of the condition.

An X-ray can reveal bone abnormalities that are associated with chiari malformation.

Treatment for Chiari Malformation

Chiari malformation is treated with surgery, either to make more space for the brain and relieve pressure from the spinal column, or to increase the size of the spinal canal to alleviate the pressure. The objective in each procedure is to return the flow of cerebrospinal fluid to and from the brain and spinal column, restoring normal bodily function.