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Chiari I Malformation - Symptoms After Injury

Karns & Kerrison

Chiari I malformation that is asymptomatic can become symptomatic exhibiting many symptoms after injury. A study reproduced in the medical periodical - Neurosurgery (October 2008) concludes that minor head or neck trauma can precipitate the onset of symptoms in previously asymptomatic patients with Chiari I malformation. This study indicates what many treating neurosurgeons agree with that the asymptomatic condition can become symptomatic due to the aggravation of the condition caused by injury to the head or neck.

Chiari I malformation is a condition involving a structural defect in the cerebellum. The cerebellum (Latin for little brain) is the area in the bottom back of the brain. This condition occurs when the cerebellum hangs down into the foramen magnum. The foramen magnum (Latin for great hole) is the large opening in the occipital area of the skull where the spinal cord enters the skull. Chiari I malformation occurs when the tonsils of the cerebellum hang down into this area.

When this condition becomes symptomatic it is a result of pressure in the cerebellum because the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is blocked because of the condition.

The cerebellum is the part of the brain that plays an important role in motor functions and certain cognitive functions. When this condition becomes symptomatic the symptoms include:

  • Dizziness
  • Muscle Weakness
  • Numbness
  • Vision Problems
  • Headaches
  • Problems with balance and coordination

In certain cases people are born with this condition whereby the cerebellum hangs down through the foramen magnum but they are suffering no symptoms. Following injury, including trauma to the head and or neck they experience symptoms caused by the aggravation of this condition.

Although the injury did not cause the Chiari I malformation, the injury progresses or aggravates it so that the above symptoms exist following the injury.

If the symptoms are severe enough, surgical decompression must be done whereby the cerebellum is decompressed back into the skull alleviating the blockage of CSF fluid. Many treating neurosurgeons agree that trauma can cause asymptomatic Chiari I malformation to become symptomatic.


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