Beejal Y. Amin MD

Here's What to Expect During Your Surgery to Correct Chiari Malformation

May 02, 2023

Here's What to Expect During Your Surgery to Correct Chiari Malformation

Do you need surgery for Chiari malformation? This issue at the base of your skull can cause brain problems related to your ability to regulate motion. Read to learn more about surgery to correct Chiari malformation and what to expect from treatment.

Decompression surgery may be the best treatment option for issues like Chiari malformation that affect your brain function due to compression.

Experienced neurosurgeon Dr. Beejal Y. Amin provides multiple types of surgery to address Chiari malformation symptoms like neck pain from his locations in Oak Lawn, South Holland, or Orland Park, Illinois.

If you need Chiari malformation surgery, here’s what you need to know about your condition, treatment procedures, and what to expect from your treatment.

Understanding Chiari malformation

This congenital condition results in brain abnormalities in a specific area: where your skull joins your spine. This area at the base of your skull is also known as the posterior fossa.

Your cerebellum is a part of your brain typically located at the base of your skull, in the posterior fossa. You rely on your cerebellum to coordinate your body’s movements. A healthy, normal cerebellum has two halves, or hemispheres, with a narrow space in between called the vermis. 

There’s also a ventricle containing cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in front of the cerebellum that can be affected by Chiari malformation.

Depending on the severity, Chiari malformation classifies as type I, II, III, or IV. Chiari malformation is also associated with syringomyelia and hydromyelia.

When you need Chiari malformation treatment

Many cases of Chiari malformation are asymptomatic. You might not even know you have this condition until you get a diagnostic imaging scan, perhaps for an unrelated reason.

In more severe cases, displacement related to Chiari malformation harms the parts of your brain found in your posterior fossa, resulting in problematic symptoms.

Symptoms of Chiari malformation include:

  • Intense, severe head and neck pain
  • Headaches at the base of your skull
  • Loss of sensation and muscle strength in your arms
  • Dizziness and balance problems
  • Vision issues
  • Spasticity

More severe cases can also affect your ability to swallow or disrupt your breathing pattern.

Surgery for Chiari malformation

In type I Chiari malformation cases, surgical treatment isn’t typically recommended. However, surgery can provide relief if you have severe Chiari malformation or related symptoms. Infants may need urgent or emergency surgery for Chiari malformation.

The type of surgery used to address your condition depends on the malformation in your skull. You may need local decompression or more intensive decompression of the bone and intervention into neighboring cerebellar tissues. Cervical spinal fusion may also be part of your treatment.

In some Chiari malformation decompression procedures, Dr. Amin creates an incision and removes the back of the foramen magnum and, if needed, the back of your first few vertebrae. In Chiari II decompression, it’s typically only necessary to decompress tissues in your spinal canal.

Dr. Amin may use a tissue graft to create space for your brainstem, spinal cord, cerebellum, and the surrounding flow of CSF. Dr. Amin can remove cerebellar components that have descended, resulting from Chiari malformation.

If you have hydromyelia, your surgery plan may include draining cavities that have formed in your spinal cord with a shunt tube.

What to expect from your procedure

Dr. Amin evaluates your condition and assesses the best surgical treatment plan to relieve compression and related symptoms.

If you need decompression surgery, general anesthesia means you won’t be conscious during treatment. The length of your hospital stay depends on the nature of your procedure or procedures.

Dr. Amin informs you about preparing for your surgery and what you can expect in your recovery. It’s important to follow his instructions as you recover from your surgery.

Chiari malformation surgery relieves symptoms and stops the progression of related conditions. However, any nerve damage that has already occurred won’t diminish after your surgery. You may need multiple surgical interventions to fully address your symptoms.

For the support you need with surgery to correct Chiari malformation, contact Dr. Amin online or over the phone and schedule an appointment now.