A Chiari (pronounced kee-AH-ree) malformation is a condition in which part of the cerebellum (bottom part of the brain) extends out through the large opening at the bottom of the brain. The spinal cord also normally exits through this opening, and may become crowded by a Chiari malformation. Because of the crowding, some people with a Chiari malformation have a fluid-filled cavity (a syrinx) in the spinal cord.
The symptoms depend on the severity of the condition. The most common symptoms are neck pain and headaches that are located in the back of the head that are made worse with coughing, sneezing, or straining. Patients can also experience weakness of arms or legs, balance difficulty, swallowing problems, or speech or vision problems.
Treatment depends on the severity of symptoms. If they are mild, the condition may require only periodic monitoring.
If the condition is severe, Dr. Amin may recommend surgical treatment. The most common surgery is called a posterior fossa decompression, where the surgeon removes a small portion of bone from the back of the skull to give the brain more space.