Management of Chiari type I malformation: a retrospective analysis of a series of 91 children treated surgically

Acta Neurochirurgica (2021) 163:3065–3073

The diagnosis of Chiari I malformation, its symptomatology, and the results of its surgical management are still discussed. We report a pediatric series of CMI without associated skull base malformations or cerebellar growth anomalies operated between 2001 and 2018.

Material and methods Ninety-one children out of 146 surgically treated cases have been included in the study. Age at surgery ranged from 5 months to 17 years clinical data, and complementary examinations leading to the surgical indication have been analyzed together with the surgical outcomes. The average follow-up duration was of 4 years. The occipito-cervical decompression with duraplasty without opening the arachnoid was the procedure of election. Three quarters of patients presented with headaches, 12% with cerebellar syndrome, 13% with vertigo, 26% with nausea or vomiting, 24% with sensorimotor deficits, 11% with cranial nerve deficits, and 29% with other symptoms. Eighteen percent of patients suffered from scoliosis, 47% had an associated syrinx and 16% a ventricular dilation.

Results After the treatment, the clinical symptomatology improved in about three-quarters of the patients: headache (69.4%), nausea or vomiting (66.7%), sensorimotor deficits (55.6%), and other symptoms (78.3%). Syringomyelic cavities diminished partially in size or disappeared in 58.3% of patients, remained stable in 29.2%, and worsened in 12.5%. Only one-third of children with preoperative scoliosis benefited from the surgical treatment. No clinical signs or symptoms were found to be reliable predictors of surgical success, neither the extent of the cerebellar tonsil descent.

Conclusion Occipito-cervical decompression allows to improve the clinical condition in the majority of children with symptomatic CMI in the absence of associated cervico-spinal junction alterations, craniosynostosis, or cerebellar growth anomalies. No clinical signs or symptoms neither radiological criterion appear to be a specific finding for the surgical indication.