Dura Management Strategies in the Surgical Treatment of Adult Chiari Type I Malformation

Operative Neurosurgery 23:304–311, 2022

Symptomatic Chiari I malformation is treated with suboccipital decompression and C1 laminectomy. However, whether the dura should be opened (durotomy) or enlarged with a graft (duraplasty) remains unclear.

OBJECTIVE: To compare outcomes in adult Chiari I malformation patients treated with duraplasty, durotomy, or without dural opening (“mini-decompression”).

METHODS: A retrospective, multicenter, population-based cohort study was performed of all adult patients surgically treated for a Chiari I malformation at 3 regional neurosurgical centers between 2005 and 2017. Three different dura management strategies were favored by the participating hospitals, with data stratified accordingly. The primary outcome was measured using the Chicago Chiari Outcome Scale (CCOS), dichotomized into favorable (CCOS ≥13) or unfavorable (CCOS ≤12). Propensity score matching was used to adjust for potential confounders in outcome comparisons.

RESULTS: In total, 318 patients were included, of whom 52% were treated with duraplasty, 37% with durotomy, and 11% with mini-decompression. In total, 285 (90%) showed a favorable surgical outcome (CCOS ≥13). Duraplasty was associated with more favorable CCOS and shorter hospital stay compared with durotomy, both in unadjusted (93% vs 84%. P = .018 and 6.0 vs 8.0 days, P < .001) and adjusted analyses (92% vs 84%, P = .044 and 6.0 vs 8.0 days, P < .001). Mini-decompression was excluded from the adjusted analyses because of its small sample size.

CONCLUSION: In this study of adult Chiari I malformation, posterior fossa decompression with duraplasty was associated with more favorable postoperative outcome, as determined by the CCOS, compared with posterior fossa decompression with durotomy alone.

Cerebrospinal fluid area and syringogenesis in Chiari malformation type I

J Neurosurg 134:825–830, 2021

Syringogenesis in Chiari malformation type I (CM-I) is thought to occur secondary to impaction of the cerebellar tonsils within the foramen magnum (FM). However, the correlation between the CSF area and syringogenesis has yet to be elucidated. The authors sought to determine whether the diminution in subarachnoid space is associated with syringogenesis. Further, the authors sought to determine if syrinx resolution was associated with the degree of expansion of subarachnoid spaces after surgery.

METHODS The authors performed a retrospective review of all patients undergoing posterior fossa decompression for CM-I from 2004 to 2016 at the University of Virginia Health System. The subarachnoid spaces at the FM and at the level of the most severe stenosis were measured before and after surgery by manual delineation of the canal and neural tissue area on MRI and verified through automated CSF intensity measurements. Imaging and clinical outcomes were then compared.

RESULTS Of 68 patients, 26 had a syrinx at presentation. Syrinx patients had significantly less subarachnoid space at the FM (13% vs 19%, p = 0.0070) compared to those without syrinx. Following matching based on degree of tonsillar herniation and age, the subarachnoid space was significantly smaller in patients with a syrinx (12% vs 19%, p = 0.0015). Syrinx resolution was associated with an increase in patients’ subarachnoid space after surgery compared with those patients without resolution (23% vs 10%, p = 0.0323).

CONCLUSIONS Syrinx development in CM-I patients is correlated with the degree to which the subarachnoid CSF spaces are diminished at the cranial outlet. Successful syrinx reduction is associated with the degree to which the subarachnoid spaces are increased following surgery.

Histological and intraoperative evaluations of the arachnoid in patients with Chiari I malformation

Acta Neurochirurgica (2021) 163:219–225

Arachnoid dissection for decompression of Chiari I malformation is controversial. Whether arachnoid changes have an impact on the clinical course is not established. This paper documents the histological spectrum of arachnoid changes and evaluates correlations with preoperative, intraoperative, and postoperative data.

Method Arachnoid samples of 162 consecutive foramen magnum decompressions from 2006 to 2016 were studied. Arachnoid thickness and degrees of fibrosis and cellularity were determined with the examiner blinded for clinical data. Based on 145 first time decompressions, a histological classification for arachnoid features was developed.

Results The arachnoid was thicker in secondary compared with primary decompressions (176.1 ± 158.2 μm vs. 35.9 ± 43.5 μm; p = 0.0026) and in adults compared to children (37.3 ± 45.3 μm vs. 21.8 ± 7.7 μm; p = 0.0007). In primary decompressions, arachnoid thickness, degrees of fibrosis, and cellularity followed a normal distribution with all features shifted significantly to higher grades in secondary decompressions. The histological classification correlatedwith the preoperative severity of gait ataxia, motor weakness, and sensory deficits, whereas it had no predictive power for postoperative short- or long-term results. By comparison, the intraoperative evaluation of arachnoid changes accounting for relationships between arachnoid and surrounding tissues showed higher correlations with preoperative symptoms and had significant predictive power for postoperative short- and long-term results.

Conclusions Histological changes of the arachnoid correlate with preoperative symptoms. Relationships between arachnoid and surrounding tissues show even higher correlations with predictive power for short- and long-term outcomes. These findings suggest a pathophysiological role for the arachnoid in Chiari I malformation.

Two distinct populations of Chiari I malformation based on presence or absence of posterior fossa crowdedness on magnetic resonance imaging

J Neurosurg 126:1934–1940, 2017

A subset of patients with Chiari I malformation demonstrate patent subarachnoid spaces around the cerebellum, indicating that reduced posterior fossa volume alone does not account for tonsillar descent. The authors distinguish two subsets of Chiari I malformation patients based on the degree of “posterior fossa crowdedness” on MRI.

METHODS Two of the coauthors independently reviewed the preoperative MR images of 49 patients with Chiari I malformation and categorized the posterior fossa as “spacious” or “crowded.” Volumetric analysis of posterior fossa structures was then performed using open-source DICOM software. The preoperative clinical and imaging features of the two groups were compared.

RESULTS The posterior fossae of 25 patients were classified as spacious and 20 as crowded by both readers; 4 were incongruent. The volumes of the posterior fossa compartment, posterior fossa tissue, and hindbrain (posterior fossa tissue including herniated tonsils) were statistically similar between the patients with spacious and crowed subtypes (p = 0.33, p = 0.17, p = 0.20, respectively). However, patients in the spacious and crowded subtypes demonstrated significant differences in the ratios of posterior fossa tissue to compartment volumes as well as hindbrain to compartment volumes (p = 0.001 and p = 0.0004, respectively). The average age at surgery was 29.2 ± 19.3 years (mean ± SD) and 21.9 ± 14.9 years for spacious and crowded subtypes, respectively (p = 0.08). Syringomyelia was more prevalent in the crowded subtype (50% vs 28%, p = 0.11).

CONCLUSIONS The authors’ study identifies two subtypes of Chiari I malformation, crowded and spacious, that can be distinguished by MRI appearance without volumetric analysis. Earlier age at surgery and presence of syringomyelia are more common in the crowded subtype. The presence of the spacious subtype suggests that crowdedness alone cannot explain the pathogenesis of Chiari I malformation in many patients, supporting the need for further investigation.


Minimally invasive subpial tonsillectomy for Chiari I decompression


Acta Neurochir (2016) 158:1807–1811

A number of different surgical techniques have been used through the years to address Chiari I malformation (CMI).

Methods This article describes how we surgically manage CMI at two high-volume centers. We call the technique the minimally invasive subpial tonsillectomy (MIST). The technique consists of a minimalistic dissection and craniectomy with a short, linear durotomy for the subpial tonsillar resection. The dura is closed without the use of a duraplasty.

Conclusions We describe our current methods of surgery for CMI.