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Treatment for a Chiari malformation

Chiari malformation diagnosed

If a Chiari malformation occurs with other congenital (present at birth) defects, the diagnosis may be made at birth. Other times, the diagnosis is made after the onset of specific signs and symptoms, and after diagnostic testing. The physician obtains a complete prenatal and birth history of the child and may also ask if there is a family history of any medical problems.

The physician will also ask about developmental milestones, such as the age the child sat up, crawled, or walked since a Chiari malformation can be associated with other neuromuscular disorders. Developmental delays may require further medical follow up for underlying problems.

During the examination, a measurement of the circumference of the child's head is taken and compared to a scale that can identify normal and abnormal ranges. Diagnostic tests that may be performed to confirm the diagnosis of a Chiari malformation include:

  • x-rays - a diagnostic test which uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.
  • computed tomography scan (Also called a CT or CAT scan.) - a diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of x-rays and computer technology to produce cross-sectional images (often called slices), both horizontally and vertically, of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general x-rays.
  • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - a diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body.
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Treatment for a Chiari malformation:

Specific treatment for a Chiari malformation will be determined by your child's physician based on:

  • your child's age, overall health, and medical history
  • the extent of the condition
  • the type of condition
  • your child's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the condition
  • your opinion or preference

Medical management consists of frequent physical examinations and diagnostic testing to monitor the growth and development of the brain, spinal cord, skull, and backbones. Some types of Chiari malformations may require surgery to relieve increased pressure inside the head or neck area, or to help drain excess cerebral spinal fluid from the brain. Very severe Chiari malformations may be life threatening.
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