Types of Chiari Malformation

by John
Chiari Malformation

Chiari malformation is where the brain tissue in the lower back part of your skull extends into the spinal canal. It occurs when the space of the cerebellum is abnormally tiny or has an unusual shape. Roswell Chiari Malformation is a rare disease, but the increased use of imaging tests helps doctors get more diagnoses. You may not show any signs and symptoms in some cases, so you do not need treatment. Chiari malformation presents itself in three types, depending on the anatomy of the brain tissue that is displaced into your spinal canal and the symptoms they cause. These types include:

Type I

Chiari malformation type 1 develops as the skull and brain are growing. Therefore, you may not experience signs and symptoms until late childhood or adulthood. Chiari malformation type 1 happens when your skull’s cerebellum section is too small or deformed. This cerebellum will put pressure on and crowd the brain. The lower part of the cerebellum becomes displaced into the upper spinal canal.

Headaches, especially severe, are the common symptom of type 1 Chiari malformation. Headaches mainly occur when you suddenly cough, sneeze, or strain. Neck pain, unsteady gait, poor hand coordination, dizziness, hand and feet numbness or tingling, and swallowing difficulties are other common symptoms of Chiari malformation type 1. In rare cases, you can experience ringing or buzz in your ears, weakness, slow heartbeats, a curvature of the spine, and breathing problems such as central sleep apnea.

Type II

Chiari malformation type 2 occurs when the cerebellum is pushed into the upper spinal canal. A more significant amount of tissue extends into your spinal cord than Chiari malformation type 1. The cerebellum interferes with the normal flow of cerebrospinal fluid that protects your brain and spinal cord. The impaired circulation of cerebrospinal fluid can block signals transmitted from the brain to your body or cause spinal fluid buildup in your brain or spinal cord. Pressure from the cerebellum on the spinal cord can also lead to neurological signs or symptoms.

It is commonly diagnosed in children with spina bifida. Spina bifida is the incomplete development of the spinal cord or its protective covering. Changes in breathing pattern, arms weakness, quick downward eye movements, and swallowing problems like gagging are the common symptoms of Chiari malformation type 2. Doctors can diagnose this condition with an ultrasound during pregnancy. Doctors can also diagnose Chiari malformation type 2 after birth or early infancy.

Type III

Chiari malformation type 3 is a rare and the most severe form of Chiari malformation and can lead to life-threatening situations. It occurs when your cerebellum or the brainstem extends through an opening in the back of your skull. This malformation results in swelling at your skull’s back, known as encephalocele. Chiari type 3 can be diagnosed at birth or during pregnancy through ultrasound. It has a higher mortality rate and can also cause neurological problems, slow learning, and seizures.

However, your doctor can treat Chiari malformation through medications to relieve symptoms and surgery in severe cases. Surgery is the best treatment to correct the functional defects or prevent further central nervous system damage. Schedule an appointment at Polaris Spine & Neurosurgery Center for Chiari malformation treatment to avoid life-threatening complications.

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