Chiari Malformation Treatment

Make an Appointment

Lightheadedness, fainting, and leg weakness could be signs of Chiari malformation, also called Arnold-Chiari syndrome. Chiari malformation happens when the way the back of the skull is shaped puts pressure on your brain.

Some people with very mild forms of it may never know they have it. But it can be severe and need treatment.

Chiari malformation is often seen at birth, but can also develop later in life.

Treating Chiari Malformation at UVA Health

Symptoms may include:

  • Headaches
  • Lightheadedness
  • Fainting
  • Weakness or numbness
  • Neck pain
  • Deafness or ringing in your ears
  • Eye problems such as difficulty seeing, eye pain, and rapid eye movement
  • Poor coordination
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Difficulty walking

Depending on how bad your symptoms are, you may need:

  • Braces
  • A wheelchair
  • Physical or occupational therapy
  • Speech therapy for problems with speaking or swallowing
  • Medicine for headaches and pain

The malformation can block the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the brain and spine. We can do surgery to put in a shunt or stent. That can help the flow of fluid and reduce pressure on your brain.

We'll work with you on the best treatment plan for your needs.

    Along with MRI or CT scanning, we may do special tests to check the flow of fluid around your brain and spinal cord.

    What is Chiari Malformation?

    Chiari malformation is caused by a problem in the back of the skull. The skull should have an indented space in the back of the head. The rear lower part of the brain and the brainstem are in this space.

    In some people, this indented skull space doesn't form well. The space inside the skull is too small for the brain. Parts of the brain may be pushed downward. That causes pressure on the brain. The flow of CSF from the brain to the spine may be blocked, too.

    Chiari malformation forms before you're born. We're not sure why it happens. In some cases, Chiari malformation happens along with a myelomeningocele (a type of spina bifida).

    Genetic Counseling

    If you have a child with Chiari malformation, genetic counseling can help you see if your future children are at risk of getting it.