Chiari Malformation

Neurosurgical Specialists of West County

Neurosurgeons located in Saint Louis, MO

Chiari malformation is a relatively rare disorder of the brain and spinal canal that can sometimes cause serious complications. The highly qualified team at Neurosurgical Specialists of West County in St. Louis, MO, has the expertise and experience to diagnose and treat patients with Chiari malformation and help them avoid potentially life-threatening complications. Call the practice today to find out more.

Chiari Malformation Q & A

What is Chiari malformation?

Chiari malformation is an uncommon condition in which you have brain tissue in your spinal canal due to the skull not growing to the right size or shape for your brain.

There are three types of Chiari malformation. Types II and III are congenital, meaning they’re present at birth, but type 1 develops after birth as the brain and skull start to grow.

Some people who have Chiari malformation don’t experience any significant symptoms, in which case treatment isn’t necessary. However, Chiari malformation can be associated with several serious conditions, including:

  • Hydrocephalus (excess fluid in your brain)
  • Spina bifida (malformation of the spinal cord)
  • Syringomyelia (a cavity or cyst called a syrinx in the spinal column)
  • Tethered cord syndrome (spinal cord is attached to the spine)

Congenital forms of Chiari malformation are likely to be detected before or just after birth.

What are the symptoms of Chiari malformation?

The main symptom of Chiari malformation is headaches. These are typically severe and often come on following an attack of coughing or sneezing, or sudden straining. People who have type 1 Chiari malformation may not develop symptoms until later in childhood or early adulthood, when they start to experience symptoms.

What treatments are available for Chiari malformation?

The treatment you need for Chiari malformation depends on the type you have and how it’s affecting you. If headaches and pain are your primary symptoms, pain medication may be the answer, but if you have other symptoms you may need additional interventions.

Surgery to reduce the pressure on the brain and spinal cord and restore the normal flow of spinal fluid is the surgical treatment for patients who have Chiari malformation and are experiencing symptoms.

The surgery involves removing a section of bone from the back of your skull, a procedure called posterior fossa decompression. Your neurosurgeon may sew a patch in place to enlarge the covering of your brain. 

Find out more about the expert treatment available for Chiari malformation at Neurosurgical Specialists of West County by calling the practice today.