Spine Conditions – Chiari Malformation

Research studies have highlighted that Chiari malformation is a rare spine condition with less prevalence in the American population. Most often, people who have this spine condition are asymptomatic. Doctors use various diagnostic methods, including imaging tools to detect the condition among patients. In today’s article, we will discuss everything about Chiari malformation. Read on!

What is Chiari Malformation?

By definition, Chiari malformation is a spine condition in which the tissues of the brain extends into the spinal canal. Primarily, the condition occurs when the skull is either small or abnormally developed. As a result, the tissues press against the brain and forces them to go downward in the spinal canal.

Most people with this spine condition are asymptomatic, which means they have no signs and symptoms. Asymptomatic people usually don’t need any kind of treatment. The condition is detected by performing various tests using diagnostic imaging tools.

However, if the problem is severe, then the patient needs treatment, such as Chiari malformation surgery. There are two common types of the Chiari malformation spine condition, and they are type 1 and type 2. Neck pain, poor fine motor skills, poor hand coordination, unsteady gait or poor balance, tingling and numbness in the hands and feet, difficulty swallowing, choking, gagging, and vomiting are the common signs of Chiari malformation.

Other than the common symptoms, some people may experience weakness, buzzing or ringing the ears, slow heartbeat, spinal curvature, scoliosis, sleep apnea, and difficulty sleeping. All these symptoms are rare, but if you have them, your condition is serious.

What are the causes of Chiari Malformation?

As mentioned above, there are two types of Chiari spine conditions, such as type 1 and type 2. The first one occurs when your skull is deformed or small in size. More specifically, the part of your skull that contains the cerebellum becomes deformed. Consequently, it puts pressure on the brain and thus leads to the displacement of the tonsils into the upper spinal canal.

Besides, the second type of this spine condition occurs due to the formation of spina bifida. When the skull pushes the cerebellum into the upper spinal canal, it obstructs the normal flow of cerebrospinal fluid, which provides protection to the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord).

Likewise, the cerebrospinal fluid has impaired circulation that does not allow signals to flow from the brain into the body. The accumulation of the spinal fluid in the central nervous system can cause the disorder, which leads to severe pain, tingling, weakness, etc.

There are several complications associated with this spine condition, such as spina bifida and hydrocephalus. The first one is a condition that leads to poor development of the spinal cord covering.

It can occur with Chiari malformation in which part of your spinal cord is exposed. When this occurs, it can cause paralysis as well. The condition is more common with type 2 Chiari malformation.

Additionally, another complication that can occur with this spine condition is hydrocephalus, which is the build-up of excess fluid within the brain. Thus, it diverts and drains the fluid in other parts of the body.

What are the possible treatments for Chiari malformation?

Some doctors may prescribe medications to treat the symptoms of the condition, such as pain, inflammation, sleep disturbance, irregular heart rhythm, etc. However, these are not a permanent solution to the problem.

Similarly, your doctor may also prescribe your physical therapy exercises to control the pain and other symptoms of the condition, but then again, it is not as useful as surgery. Open surgery can treat the problem, but it causes further complications too, such as damages to the surrounding tissues and muscles.

Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

THE Decompression MIS technique is the most effective Chiari malformation surgery. The surgery requires the surgeon and the support staff to perform the operation under local anesthesia.

Once done, the surgeon makes a tiny skin incision in the middle through the muscles of the neck to see the top of the spine and the skull. Keep in mind that if you undergo this type of surgery, the surgeon will only make a 3-inch small incision.

Once approached the skull, the surgeon will remove a small section of the skull. Usually, it is done at the back of your head. That’s why the surgery is specifically known as the suboccipital craniectomy.

Then, the surgeon opens the dura to see the cisterna magna and tonsils. Next, the surgeon will reduce the tonsils. Depending on the herniation size, the surgeon will use electrocautery to shrink the damaged tonsils. The purpose is to ensure the normal flow of the fluid.

Next, our surgeon will place the synthetic material, which will enlarge the dura and create a good space around the tonsils. Lastly, our surgeon will close the incision to complete the surgery. So, if you have Chiari malformation and looking for treatment, look no further, contact MINT today.