Dr. Kamal Thapar, MD., PhD., FRCSC., FAANS
1200 Oakleaf Way, Suite A, Altoona, WI 54720

Chiari Malformation

A Chiari malformation is a defect of the structures in the back of the head where the brain meets the spinal cord. A Chiari malformation is present if part of the brain, the cerebellum, protrudes down into the spinal canal.


– Congenital structural defects

– Excessive loss of spinal fluid

– Trauma or infections


– Headaches

– Neck pain

– Difficulty with walking due to impaired balance

– Weakness

– Numbness and tingling

– Visual changes

– Nausea and vomiting


In order to confirm the diagnosis of a Chiari malformation, an MRI of the brain is required to identify the structural defect. A CT scan of the head may also be needed to identify if there are any bony abnormalities present with the Chiari malformation. Additionally, an MRI scan will be able to identify if there is any other congenital cavities within the cervical of thoracic spine.


Treatment of a Chiari malformation is dependent on the patient’s symptoms. If symptoms are mild, non-operative management may be an option. However, if surgical intervention is required, a craniotomy is performed to reduce the pressure on the cerebellum and spinal cord.