Chiari Malformation

If you think you have Chiari Malformation you need a BRAIN MRI. This is the gold-standard for diagnosis. Your GP or specialist doctor can write a referral for this test. Chiari Malformation will show up in these images. Most cases the radiologist will be able to identify and report of the Chiari Malformation for your referring doctor. If you are worried there has been something missed get a second opinion from a neurologist/neurosurgeon who commonly works with Chiari. If you need a referral to one of these specialists your GP is who you need to see. For more info on Chiari Malformation check the sections below. 

What is Chiari Malformation?

Chiari malformations involve structural defects in the base of the skull that impact on the cerebellum. When part of the cerebellum called the cerebellar tonsils extends out of the skull into the upper spinal canal this is called a Chiari 1 Malformation. There are 4 types of Chiari malformations.


Diagnosis requires medical imaging. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is the best way to diagnose Chiari. Computed Tomography (CT) scans can also pick up Chiari but can still some cases.


Chiari can be asymptomatic in some individuals. The most classic or "hallmark" symptom of Chiari malformation is the Chiari headache. There is a large list of symptoms someone with Chiari can also suffer from. 


If Chiari requires treatment surgery is the intervention required. This is commonly called a Chiari decompression surgery and can involve several neurosurgical procedures. These procedures aim to increase space around the herniated brain for the spinal fluid to flow.