Chiari malformations are defects in the structural design of a person’s cerebellum. This malformation most often occurs before birth, but in rare cases symptoms can develop in adults. To help raise awareness about the condition as well as what is being done to treat it, September has officially been declared National Chiari Malformation Awareness Month. We hope to help spread awareness by sharing some more information about the condition in this blog post.
Chiari Malformation Basics
As we noted above, Chiari malformations affect a person’s cerebellum, which is the area of your brain that helps to control your balance. If there is pressure in the area due to the malformation, a person may also experience headaches, dizziness, muscle weakness or vision problems. However, since it typically occurs during fetal development, it is unlikely that you’ll be able to spot the condition based on these listed symptoms unless you’re dealing with a rare adult-onset case. Doctors usually look for Chiari malformation either before birth or if it suspected after birth.
Left untreated, this malformation can lead to the development of Syringomyelia, a condition categorized by the growth of a fluid filled pocket in the spine. If the pocket continues to grow, it can lead to nerve damage and even paralysis. There are some types of medication can help manage the condition, but the only way to treat the Syringomyelia and the Chiari malformation is through a complex surgical operation.
Surgery for a Chiari malformation is a delicate operation, and in the wrong hands the procedure can fail, leaving the person right back to where they started. However, Dr. Chang has performed this operation countless times, and the vast majority of patients are extremely happy with the results. The goal of the surgery is to reduce pressure on the brain and spine, while also ensuring that spinal fluid can pass normally from the brain to the spine so that Syringomyelia does not occur.
More Info About Chiari Malformation
This isn’t the first time that we’ve tried to bring attention to Chiari malformations. Previously on the blog, we’ve blogged about the common types of Chiari malformation, and we’ve also gone more in depth about the surgical process in this blog. Check out those blogs for more information on the subject, and check out some more facts about the condition below.
- Chiari malformation affects roughly 300,000 people in the US.
- There is no current genetic test for Chiari malformation.
- Surgery is successful for roughly 80 percent of patients, while 10-20 percent will need a subsequent operation.
- There are four common types of Chiari malformation.
- Chiari malformation is caused by a structural defect in the brain, but we don’t know what causes this structural issue to occur in the first place.
For more information about Chiari malformation, or if you have been told you need to seek out a Chiari malformation surgeon in the St. Paul or Minneapolis region, please feel free to reach out to Dr. Chang.