Chiari malformation is caused by a skull abnormality that causes the extension of brain tissue into the spinal canal. If the skull is underdeveloped or an irregular shape, the patient’s brain is sometimes forced to grow downward. This condition is considered uncommon due to previously inadequate diagnosis. However, confirmed cases are on the rise as new imaging techniques have become available.
As different anatomical brain tissue is affected depending on the nature of Chiari malformation, there are three classified types of these vascular malformations. Each type is further characterized by whether abnormal brain or spinal conditions result from the malformation. Type I is associated with the development of the skull and brain in early childhood, whereas types II and III are congenital and therefore present at birth.
Symptoms of Chiari Malformation
In many cases a person with Chiari malformation may not show any symptoms or suffer ill health effects, meaning that a diagnosis is both unlikely and unnecessary. Type I symptoms are likely to manifest during teen to adult years. You may receive a diagnosis of type II, also known as the Arnold Chiari malformation, for your baby as part of an ultrasound during pregnancy. Otherwise, diagnosis usually occurs soon after birth. By far the most serious form of Chiari malformation, type III is characterized by the abnormal protrusion of the cerebellum or the brainstem through a hole in the back of the skull.
Other symptoms to look for if the first two types are not diagnosed include headaches, balance or motor skill problems, numbness in the hands or feet, difficulties eating or breathing or speech problems. If your infant is experiencing any of these issues, it is always important to seek medical advice, as there are a number of potentially serious health conditions that share symptoms with Chiari malformation.
Chiari Malformation Treatment
Pain management is one possible option for treating Arnold Chiari malformations where the risk of further complications is not a factor. However, surgery is often necessary to relieve pressure on the cerebellum and spinal cord, which also serves to enable unobstructed flow of spinal fluid. Typically, a small section is removed from the back of the skull, which reduces the pressure being exerted on the brain by creating more space inside the skull.
You can receive treatment options for Arnold Chiari malformation at the Vascular Birthmark Center from Dr. Greg Levitin. We provide an evaluation, which will result in a confirmed diagnosis before treatment options are discussed. The Vascular Birthmark Center also helps patients to network with other health providers to ensure that any related care needs are fully explored and implemented.
Contact our office today to discuss your symptoms and arrange an evaluation with Dr. Greg Levitin.