Pediatric Chiari Malformation

Pediatric Chiari Malformation



Chiari malformation causes brain tissue to extend into a child’s spinal canal.

Expanded overview

When a child has a Chiari malformation, this means that brain tissue extends into the spinal canal. This occurs when part of the skull is unusually small or misshapen, which presses on the brain and forces it downward.


There are three types of Chiari malformations

  • Chiari malformation type I – This condition develops as the skull and brain are growing. Therefore, symptoms usually don’t occur until later childhood or early adulthood.
  • Chiari malformation type II – This congenital (present at birth) condition is usually diagnosed by ultrasound in pregnancy, or shortly after birth.
  • Chiari malformation type III – Also usually diagnosed during pregnancy or shortly after birth, this is the most severe, rare type of this condition. This type has a higher mortality (death) rate and can cause neurological problems.


Chiari malformations are caused by structural defects in the brain and spinal cord, which occur during fetal development.


Signs and symptoms of Chiari malformations vary according to the type. They include:

  • Curvature of the spine (scoliosis)
  • Dizziness
  • Neck pain
  • Numbness and tingling of the hands and feet
  • Problems swallowing
  • Problems with hand coordination
  • Problems with walking and balance
  • Ringing or buzzing in the ears
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Weakness

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