Chiari Malformation
Treatment

Your child's neurologist, along with your child's primary care doctor, will design an individualized treatment plan that may include more than one kind of treatment, including surgery. You also may be referred to additional doctors or other medical professionals.

Infants with very severe malformations may have life-threatening complications. Some children may have prolonged periods of relative stability. Untreated, however, the chronic crowding of a child's brainstem and spinal cord can lead to very serious consequences, including paralysis.

The malformation can lead to the development of a cyst, called a syrinx, which expands and over time destroys the center of the spinal cord.

Chiari malformation often is treated with the following surgeries:

  • Surgery to repair a myelomeningocele, or protruding sac of membrane

  • Implantation of a shunt, a small plastic tube that drains fluid from the brain when hydrocephalus develops or is part of the condition

  • "Chiari decompression" to enlarge the opening in the back of the skull. This can help relieve pressure within the skull

  • Implantation of a shunt, a small plastic tube that drains fluid from the brain when hydrocephalus develops or is part of the condition

Your medical team will explain any possible risks or complications. Feel free to ask your child's doctors, nurses and therapists any questions you have. If your child's treatment includes medication, be sure he or she takes it exactly as instructed.

Remember to keep all of your child's follow-up appointments.

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital.

Related Information

UCSF Clinics & Centers

Pediatric Brain Center

Neuro-Intensive Care Nursery (NICN)
1975 Fourth St., Third Floor
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 353-1565
Fax: (415) 353-1202

Child and Adolescent Neurology Clinic
1825 Fourth St., Fifth Floor, 5A
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 353-7596
Fax: (415) 353-2400
Appointment information

Neurosurgery Clinic
1825 Fourth St., Fifth Floor, 5A
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 353-7500
Fax: (415) 353-2889
Appointment information