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Chiari Malformation

First thought of by expert pathologists as a brain abnormality, Chiari malformations are your cerebellum’s structural defects. Though severe headaches are the common symptoms of Chiari malformation, most individuals suffering from Chiari malformation type I do not always show signs. However, you will experience a combination of symptoms, some of which occur because of syrinx development in your spinal cord and could be life-threatening. The experts of Roswell Chiari malformation at Apex Spine and Neurosurgery boast expertise in diagnosing, treating, and preventing their patients from debilitating complications.   

Types of Chiari Malformation

There are four types of CM and each is classified depending on the disorder’s severity and the extent by which the parts of your brain protrude into your spinal canal. 

Type I

Your cerebellum’s lower part extends into the foramen magnum – the opening at your skull’s base in type I CM. Normally only your spinal cord passes through the opening. The diagnosis of type I CM is often accidentally noticed by your doctor in adulthood during an examination for a different condition. You are not likely to experience any type I CM symptoms until later in life, though it is the most common type.

Type II

You are likely to experience severe symptoms in your childhood if you have type II CM. This type will result in life-threatening complications in infancy. The only treatment your doctor will recommend to ease the symptoms is through a surgical procedure. Also known as classic CM or Arnold-Chiari Malformation, in this type, your brain stem tissue and cerebellum extend into your spinal canal.

This type is usual with children born with myelomeningocele, a type of spina bifida that happens when the foramen magnum and backbone fail to shut before birth. The condition results in total or partial paralysis below the spinal opening. 

Type III

This malformation is rare and the most severe type of CM. In type III, a portion of your cerebellum and brain stem stick out through a faulty opening at the back of your skull.

Like type II, type III has life threatening effects and its symptoms appear in infancy. Most babies with this type of CM have similar symptoms as type II, with severe neurological and congenital disabilities. Fortunately, your doctor can perform an early operation to close off the abnormality.

Type IV

Type IV is the rarest and most severe of the four, and most babies barely survive infancy if they are born with it. In this type of CM, your cerebellum fails to develop fully. Though the cerebellum is in its rightful position, most of its parts are missing, with visible parts of your spinal cord and skull.

What treatment options are available for Chiari malformation?

The treatment your doctor will recommend highly depends on the type of CM you have and how the symptoms affect you. If pain and headaches are your major symptoms, your doctor might recommend prescription medication. However, you might need additional interventions if you have other symptoms. Your doctor could also perform a surgical procedure to reduce the pressure on your spinal cord and brain.   

Though you might not be aware of CM until your doctor accidentally notices abnormalities with your cerebellum and stem system, do not ignore when you start to notice you have issues with balance or an occipital headache at your skull’s base that worsens with sneezing or coughing. Book an appointment today with the professionals at Apex Spine and Neurosurgery and learn more about Chiari malformation.