Chiari Malformation

Chiari malformation is a commonly seen anomaly of the brain that is often diagnosed during childhood. It is characterized by a protrusion of a small part of the brain through the bottom of the skull (the foramen magnum) and into the spinal canal. The portions of the cerebellum that protrude into the spinal canal are called the "cerebellar tonsils" because they resemble the tonsils. Although there are several types of Chiari Malformations, most individuals have a Type I Chiari malformation. Type II Chiari Malformation is associated with spina bifida, is much less common than Type I, and is usually diagnosed at birth along with an associated spinal cord anomaly.

Chiari Malformation Symptoms

In many cases, patients diagnosed with Chiari Malformation Type I are asymptomatic. For some individuals, however, the Chiari Malformation may be associated with symptoms such as headache, dizziness, numbness, swallowing difficulties, vision problems, and difficulties with balance and coordination. If a Chiari Malformation does not cause symptoms or affect a person's daily life, it generally will not require treatment. If your child has associated symptoms that are ongoing (chronic) or associated with damage to the spinal cord, your child may need surgery. The Pediatric Chiari Malformation Program at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is dedicated to providing the most expert care available to patients with Chiari and their families. We hope that our patients will benefit from our vast experience with treating this disorder both surgically as well as non-surgically. Furthermore, it is our hope that patients around the word will benefit from our many ongoing research protocols on this condition. Our physicians work with a full complement of pediatric sub-specialists to determine an individualized treatment plan for each patient, involving the family in the decision process each step of the way.