Treating Chiari malformation

Some symptoms of Chiari malformation, such as headaches and dizziness, may be treated with medication. However, medication alone will not address the brain stem compression that is the underlying cause of Chiari malformation symptoms. When a patient’s symptoms are serious enough to have a significant impact on the quality of life, it is best to consider decompression surgery.

The goal of surgery is to make more room for the cerebellum, in order to relieve compression of the brain stem and spinal cord and facilitate better CSF circulation. The surgery involves removing a small part of the bottom skull to correct the existing structure. The neurosurgeon may also use electrocautery to shrink the parts of the cerebellum that protrude into the spinal column. Another procedure involves removing part of the lamina of the spinal canal to relieve pressure on the spinal cord.