Chiari Malformation – Causes, Symptoms and Treatments
Chiari malformation is a structural defect in the base of the skull where brain tissue, or cerebellum, extends into the spinal canal. There are several types of chiari malformations but type one is the most common. Usually, the cerebellum, which is responsible for controlling balance, is situated overhead an opening in the skull which allows the spinal cord to extend through it undisturbed. This condition can develop if part of the skull is misshapen or abnormally small, thereby pressing on the brain and forcing it downward.
The Causes of Chiari Malformations
Chiari malformations are typically caused by a structural defect in the brain or spinal cord which can manifest during fetal development. In some cases, the condition can develop later in life though this acquired secondary chiari malformation is a far less common occurrence. Some of the potential causes of this condition include:
- Structural defects as a result of poor maternal diet or genetic mutations
- An acquired secondary chiari malformation can occur if spinal fluid excessively leaks from the thoracic or lumbar spine due to injury, infection, or disease
The Symptoms of Chiari Malformations
Most individuals with chiari malformation will not exhibit any obvious symptoms and will only be aware of the condition after diagnostic testing for another reason is carried out. However, if symptoms do develop, they may include the following:
- Neck pain
- Problems with hearing or balance
- Problems with fine motor skills
- Numbness or muscle weakness
- Dizziness or vomiting
- Difficulty speaking or swallowing
- Ringing or buzzing in the ears
- Curvature of the spine
- Sleep apnea
Treatment Options for Chiari Malformations
Treatment depends on the type, symptoms, and severity of the condition. In some cases, treatment is not needed but for others, regular monitoring, medications, and surgery may be required. Other common treatment options may include:
- Monitoring the condition via MRIs or physical exams
- Medications may be prescribed to reduce pain
- Posterior fossa decompression surgery is one of the most common types of surgical treatment for chiari malformations. A small portion of bone is removed from the back of the skull which relieves pressure by giving the brain more space and restores the flow of spinal fluid. The covering of your brain may be exposed and a patch, made from artificial material or your own tissue, is then sewn into place to enlarge the covering to create more room for the brain.
Surgical treatment for chiari malformations should only be performed by a skilled and experienced specialist. As an expert in advanced cerebrovascular treatment techniques and a highly regarded developer of surgical instrumentation, Dr. Lewis has the required background to help patients manage this condition. In fact, he taught cerebrovascular science at University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) in his early career.
Find relief for your symptoms at Jackson Neurosurgery Clinic, one of the most successful clinics of its kind.
Contact us today to learn more about chiari malformations or to schedule a consultation. We’ll find a solution that works for you. Call us at (601) 366-1011.