Chiari Malformation Surgery

The University of Maryland Medical Center Chiari Malformation Program evaluates, diagnoses, manages and treats patients with Chiari Malformations – structural defects in the brain’s cerebellum.

Neurosurgeons and neurologists work together to provide patients with efficient, comprehensive and innovative care, including rapid access to state-of-the art therapies.

Learn more about our neurosurgeons: E. Francois Aldrich, MD, and Graeme Woodworth, MD.

What Sets Us Apart

  • Team-oriented approach to care – Our highly-skilled, multidisciplinary team includes neurosurgeons, neurologists, physical medicine and rehabilitation specialists and nurse coordinators. These specialists embrace a team approach to care, working closely together to ensure patients received advanced, personalized and comprehensive treatments.
  • Highly experienced team – University of Maryland Medical Center Chiari Malformation specialists are exceptionally trained and experienced doctors, nurses and therapists, ready to provide the most effective, safe care available. 
  • Access to the latest treatments and clinical trials – The Chiari Malformation team strives to apply the most pertinent, updated information related to the condition to aid in treatment timing and type. This includes offering a full-spectrum of exciting new treatment options through clinical trials when appropriate for each patient. 

Conditions We Treat

University of Maryland Medical Center - brain scans

Chiari Malformation is classified by its severity. Our team treats the following four types:

  • Type I – The cerebellar tonsils extend into the foramen magnum (a hole in the skull’s base where the spinal cord passes through), without involving the brain stem. Type I is the only type that can be acquired.
  • Type II – Both cerebellar tonsils and brain stem tissue extend into the foramen magnum. Nerve tissue connecting two halves of the cerebellum may be absent or partially complete. This type is usually found with myelomeningocele, a birth defect and type of spina bifida where the backbone and spinal canal do not close before birth. 
  • Type III – The cerebellum and the brain stem protrude through the foramen magnum and into the spinal cord. 
  • Type IV – Cerebellar tonsils are in a normal position, but parts of the cerebellum are missing. Parts of the skull and spinal cord may be visible. 

Our team also treats conditions associated with Chiari Malformations, including:

  • Hydrocephalus – A buildup of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain.
  • Syringomyelia – When a cerebrospinal fluid-filled cyst, also called a syrinx, forms in spinal cord’s cervical region. 

Advanced Treatment Options

The University of Maryland Medical Center Chiari Malformation Program uses modern technology to maximize patient safety and outcomes. Team members exhaust all non-surgical treatments before moving forward with surgery for the condition.

To provide a detailed diagnosis, specialists use high-quality MRI imaging with cerebrospinal fluid flow studies. Posterior fossa decompression surgery can create more space for the cerebellum and decompress the brain stem.

Our neurosurgeons are experts in ensuring cerebrospinal fluid channels are open and that all tissue layers are recreated or reconstructed, resulting in more positive surgical outcomes and relief of symptoms.