Skip to main content
Skull X Ray

Chiari Malformation is a condition caused by an abnormally formed skull. The abnormality is excessive space at the lower back of the skull where the spinal cord passes through and into the brain. This extra open space allows brain tissue to extend into the spinal canal. Sometimes the malformation actually forces the brain to grow down into this canal. Other times, the brain merely responds to gradual pull due to gravity and droops into the canal.

This extension of brain tissue into the spinal canal can exert pressure on the brain, causing headaches, numbness in the extremities, balance problems, motor skill difficulties, trouble eating, swallowing, speaking or breathing. Most people with a Chiari Malformation suffer no ill effects. However, this is a progressive condition in many cases, meaning that adults may begin to experience ill effects as they age.

Diagnosing Chiari Malformation in Children

There is currently no test to determine if a child will have a Chiari Malformation before birth. However, sometimes the malformation can be detected during a pre-birth ultrasound. Most children born with a Chiari Malformation show no ill effects and the condition goes undetected. Certain birth defects are associated with CM, and so children born with those defects are also tested for CM using X-rays, ultrasound and MRI testing.

Treating Chiari Malformation

For those who exhibit no difficulties with CM, no treatment is recommended. Specialists may choose to monitor the area as the child grows with cognitive testing, motor skills testing and diagnostic imaging. Any slight effects from CM, such as headaches or other pain, may be treated with medications.

The only real treatment for Chiari Malformation is surgery. This “decompression” surgery, also known as a “decompressive suboccipital craniectomy and cervical laminectomy,” removes a piece of the patient’s skull at the base of the neck to allow more room for the brain tissue, thereby relieving any compression. This alleviates the symptoms and provides the patient with relief from pain. Most other symptoms may also be reduced or eliminated.

If your child has been diagnosed with Chiari Malformation, contact the Vascular Birthmark Center for a consultation and evaluation with Dr. Gregory Levitin.

Posted on Behalf of Vascular Birthmark Center

doctor consultation graphic

Free online consultation

Every Birthmark Is Unique

Dr. Levitin’s mission is to provide the most effective treatments in a caring and supportive treatment.
Contact Us Today!

Our Patient Reviews
The Vascular Birthmark Center: Gregory M. Levitin, MD

4.8 / 5.0

Based on 27 reviews

Abril M.

Dr. Levitin is very knowledgeable, compassionate and professional. Five years ago, I needed to find information about a birth mark that my newborn daughter started to grow a couple days after birth. I was afraid, I did not feel like I got any clear information about it through my insurance; also, they did not offer any course of treatment for it. I started to look for information, the birthmark was growing each day, information was scarce and I just got more scared. Finally, I found a video in Youtube from a grandmother who was very grateful after finding treatment for her grand daughter through The Birthmark Foundation. It was a huge blessing to me and my family. I found Dr. Levitin, I contacted him thinking he probably would not even answer. I was wrong, he kindly answered promptly, got in touch with me and soon he had a plan : ) I went to see him at the Birthmark Center in Los Angeles. He explained everything in a way that it was so clear to understand, no question I made was insignificant and his answers were each very informative. I really never have had an experience with a doctor who explains and speaks in such a way. I left his office knowing that my daughter was in the best hands and the best care. I first thank God for the Birthmark Foundation, a great organization with the highest quality of doctors. Also, a very special thanks to Dr. Levitin for all his help and kindness, for listening to my concerns and answering each and every question. And last, but no least, to the Birthmark Foundation Center in Los Angeles : ) I hope many children can find help/care in this place as I found it for my daughter. Thank you forever.

Ryan E.

I will be telling tales of the good doctors compassion till time comes to an end. Because of Dr Levitin, I have more confidence in my every day life. He was fast, knowledgeable, precise and all with a disarming sense of humor. Two thumbs up!

Carla M.

I wanted to show you how much better Hailey's tongue looks and let you know her speech has already improved so much!!! Her speech teacher is thrilled!!!! Thank you so much for everything you did for her. You are an excellent surgeon with a great bedside manner- we are forever grateful to you!!! We are so appreciative!

Danielle L.

we are forever grateful for Dr. Levitin. My daughter Lena had surgery to remove her hemangioma that was located on her forehead at just 6 month old. she healed beautifully and we couldn't be happier with how minimal her scar is, even almost 4.5 years later. Dr. Levitin is caring, compassionate, and such a great doctor/surgeon overall. He had our daughter's best interest and I knew she was in good hands. I highly recommend him any chance I get!

Chris

My name is Chris and I was recently treated for an AVM on my forehead by Dr. Gregory Levitin of New York (New York Eye and Ear Infirmary). Thankfully, I live within a few hours of NYC. In brief, I would like to say that Dr. Levitin is very capable doctor with a lot of experience with AVMs. He responds quickly to e-mail, texts, and phone calls. He accepts insurance. He takes a "team approach" and will be your "QB" and involve other specialists as necessary. In my particular case they were Dr. Raj Shrivastava (Mt Sinai) and Dr. Raphael A. Ortiz (Lenox Hill) in NY. I recommend contacting Dr Levitin for a consultation if you suspect you have an AVM. All 3 Drs are just good people. When I spoke to them, they treated me like like an equal. I felt like they were advising me as a close friend or family member. Like many that suffer with AVMs I was at first mis-diagnosed. What was thought to be a just a simple cyst turned out to be an AVM. Surgery to remove the cyst made the AVM about 5x bigger. My treatment entailed a few MRIs and CAT scans to determine what was going on and the treatment plan. This was followed by consultation with the 3 Drs mentioned above and finally a 2-day procedure. On day 1 Dr Ortiz embolized the AVM. On day 2 Dr Levitin and Dr Shrivastava removed the AVM from my skull and put some metal mesh there to fill the "hole". It has been 6-months since the surgery and so far I have not had any recurrence. In honor of Vascular Birthmark Awareness Day and to thank these Drs for all they have done for me, I just want to give everyone a solid reference. Finding the right doctor for this type of stuff makes all the difference.

Valle S.

I just discovered this page i have also a birthmark I always experiences bully because of this. I don't know what kind of birthmark is this if it is harmful ? I hope Dr. Levitin notice this message in this way I think he can help me :) :) #DrLevitin

Alicia M.

This year marks the 10th that I contacted VBF for help. Since then I have been under the care of Dr. G Levitin and Dr. R. Ortiz, they are my guardian healing angels! Thanks VBF for not only helping me but also for letting me be a volunteer in the foundation whenever I am needed. A Big Hug to all from MIAMI... Alicia

Alexander G.

Totally positive experience. Dr. Levitin is a great professional. He has diagnosed and treated my nose breathing problem, significantly improving my quality of life. Office staff is very professional. Appointments always kept on time. Strongly recommend.