A Chiari malformation (CM) is a structural defect in the cerebellum which is the part of the brain that controls the balance. The cerebellum and parts of the brain stem normally sit in an indented space at the lower end of the skull, above the foramen magnum, a funnel-like opening to the spinal canal. When part of the cerebellum is located below the foramen magnum, it is called al Chiari malformation; this develops when the bony space is smaller than normal, causing the cerebellum and brain stem to be pushed downward into the foramen magnum and into the upper spinal canal. This pressure on the cerebellum and the brain stem can affect functions controlled by these areas and block the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), a clear liquid that surrounds and cushions the brain and spinal cord, to and from the brain.
There following are causes of Chiari malformations:
There are also four classifications of Chiari malformations. They are classified by the severity of the disorder and the parts of the brain that protrude into the spinal cord.
Symptoms of CM can include:
Symptoms may be different or may change for patients, depending on the buildup of CSF and resulting in pressure on the tissues and nerves. Patients with Type I CM may not have symptoms. Adolescents and adults who have CM but show no symptoms at first, may develop signs of the disorder later in life.
Many patients who have CM usually have no symptoms and their malformations are discovered for the diagnosis or treatments of another disorder. Your physician will perform a physical exam and check your memory, cognition, balance, touch, reflexes, sensation and motor skills. One of the following diagnostic tests may be done as well:
Some Chiari malformations are asymptomatic and do not interfere with daily activities. In other cases, medications may be taken to ease certain symptoms. Surgery is the only treatment available to correct functional disturbances or stop the progression of damage to the center nervous system. Most patients who have surgery see a reduction in their symptoms and/or prolonged periods of relative stability.
Please talk to your physician or schedule a consultation at Baylor Neurosurgery Associates to determine what approach is best for you.