The Complexity of Arnold-Chiari Malformation

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Biology 202
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The Complexity of Arnold-Chiari Malformation

Nicki Lynn Pollock

To the medical doctor, Arnold-Chiari Malformation, which may have a genetic link, is characterized by a small or misshapen posterior fossa (the depression in the back of the skull), a reduction in cerebrospinal fluid pathways and a protrusion of the cerebellar tonsils through the bottom of the skull (foramen magnum) into the spinal canal resulting in a multitude of sensory-motor problems and even some autonomous malfunctions (1). These many symptoms can come in a variety of forms which often makes a clinical diagnosis difficult. To the patient this disorder can present not only physical difficulties but also mental distress. Treatment options and their success rates vary widely, and proponents of the cause are demanding more recognition, research, and success. The study of Arnold-Chiari malformations can lead to additional questions and new understandings about the I-function, sensory-motor input/output paths and the general make-up of the brain and nervous system, but a complete understanding of the disorder may be a long time coming.

Impairment and sometimes loss of motor control of the body and its extremities is one of the many effects of this disorder. Patients may complain of headaches, neck pain, coughing, sneezing, dizziness, vertigo, disequilibrium, muscle weakness, balance problems, and loss of fine motor control (1). The senses (hearing, sight, smell etc.) may also be affected in deleterious ways. On can have blurred vision, decreased sensation of limbs, unable to locate them without looking, decreased sense of taste, ringing of the ears etc. (2).

Two ideas about the nervous system that can be better understood from these observations are the concepts of having and locating the I-function. It seems that the I-function here is very often affected in terms of voluntary movement. A person with Arnold-Chiari malformation who has lost the feeling in and control of his arm for example will not be able to move it even upon someone's request and his or her own desire to do so. Some use of the I-function is definitely impaired. However, these observations do not seem to necessarily imply that some part of the I-function was damaged, because it may very well be located elsewhere- connections may have simply been lost. A person with Arnold-Chiari can still think and have a sense of self, but somehow can not connect with the various body parts that can be affected. Some uses and pathways of the I-function can be understood, but the exact location of it remains vague.

A lack of sensory input can also provide clues about pathways within the nervous system. Depending on the severity and specific location of the Chiari malformation different senses may be affected. Again, the location of where this information is processed can not be determined for sure from these observations alone. It is obvious that the pathway needed for sensory information to travel is indeed affected but not the ultimate processing center itself.

Recently, diagnosing this disorder has become relatively easier with the advent of the MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) so that doctors and patients no longer have to rely on a symptom-based diagnosis which was troublesome for both (3). The symptoms vary widely and encompass many parts of the body. Many deemed Arnold-Chiari sufferers the victims of some psychosomatic disease before the biological nature of the disorder was understood (5). Now, with the possibility of having a genetic predisposition for Chiari and the early detection devices available, one can more easily be diagnosed properly (2).

There are both medical and non-medical ways to treat Arnold-Chiari malformations. When symptoms develop, patients should seek a doctor's advice to consider a posterior fossa and upper cervical decompression. This procedure can provide more room around the lower brainstem and promotes improved neurologic functioning, though it is not a guaranteed solution (3). Patients may also benefit from various and symptom appropriate forms of physical and occupational therapy. Some patients also explore non-traditional options such as herbal therapy, acupuncture and others (5).

The symptomology of Arnold-Chiari malformations can lead to many useful observations of the pathways used by the nervous system to maintain control and awareness of the body in terms of the I-function and sensory-motor abilities. However, due to this large range of symptoms and the fact that current attempts to treat them all are not always successful, there may be other things going on in other areas of the nervous system which contribute to the overall effect of Chiari. The situation at the base of the skull, where the malformations are readily noticeable and are thought to be the cause, may be more complicated then believed or known at the time. As always, a better understanding of what is actually happening in patients with Arnold-Chiari malformation is needed.


WWW Sources

1)American Syringomyelia Alliance Project Inc.

2)Chiari Information Exchange

3)Division of Neurosurgery Begins New Study of the Chiari I Malformation

4)National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: Chiari Malformation

5)World Arnold Chiari Malformation Association



Continuing conversation
(to contribute your own observations/thoughts, post a comment below)

10/18/2005, from a Reader on the Web

I am writing these comments to ask for help of any kind on my situation. I was diagnosed with arnold chiari type 1 in june of 2001, i had the surgery in august the same year. it was successfull for about 3 1/2 untill i had a fall a work in april of 2005 which i struck the back of my head on metal racks. since i have had all of my symtoms return plus more. My case is very extrodinay due to me having to neck fusions prior to my chiari surgery. I have only seen 1 nuroligist and 2 spine and pain specialist and a nerocycoligist which all say that i am fine to return to work, but i still have severe headaches, sneezing, numbess in left side extremeties, drop attacks "falling spells" abromal sentations of extremeties, ring of the ears, double or blured visions. The only treatment that I am gettings is from my local faimly doctor who prescibes me 50mg Oxicotine pills to help with the headaches. If your are aware of any documentaiton or programs that can help me or you need more information PLEASE help.

11/20/2005, from a Reader on the Web

I have found a wonderful Neurosurgeon at the University of Colorado his name is Dr. Jen-Peter Witt. I suggest you contact him, possible he can help you. Good luck.

12/20/2005, from a Reader on the Web

Do not know where you are located, but please consider seeing Dr. Dan S. Heffez at the Milwaukee Neurological Institute, 414-438-6500. I, too, had surgeries to the cervical spine, and very recently surgery for Chiari Malformation.

01/27/2006, from a Reader on the Web

I also had decompression surgery in 2002. My symptoms improved until I returned to work. Then they became more severe. Everyone keeps telling me that I'm having migranes and symproms cannot return after surgery. I worked at a local hospital for fourteen years, they relieved me of my position in May because I could no longer perform my duties. It's hard to play with my children, I've gained weight, and riding in cars is hard. It's even difficult to look at a computer screen for more than five or ten minutes. If you can offer me any advice or suggestions on where to get better treatment I would be appreciative. Thank you.

Additional comments made prior to 2007
I have Arnold Chiari like Symptoms but am told I do not have the disorder because my cerebellar tonsils only descend 4mm rather than 5mm. Meanwhile no nuerologist makes any sense or diagnosis of what is causing my symptoms. I am written off as crazy. The only help I have received was from a physical therapist who does cranial sacral treatments in which they can apparantly work with the flow of cerebral spinal fluid. But, medicare is doing a new monitering system of what Physical therapists can do in their practices and will no longer pay for these treatments. I had already lost most of my financial resources when these symptoms first appeared in Dec 2001 due to becoming unable to work plus spending alot of money on alternative medicine and help with activities of daily living. I am a single divorced parent and it has been very challenging. I had stabilized within a life with many physical limitations when my son and I were rear ended in Jan 2005 by a hit and run car acccident. The PIP quickly ran out and this time with out the personal financial resources I had when my symptoms first appeared, I have been unable to pursue much help. And "without a diagnosis", I "have no case" to pursue more medical help through the auto insurance. The car accident not only aggravated prior symptoms but added many including trouble swallowing, trouble breathing when supine, urinary incontinence. Since the car accident I can only lay if inclined, the degree of incline dependant upon how bad symptoms are. At its worst I must sit up or stand to prevent intollerable symptoms. But because my MRI has only 4mm herniation rahter than 5mm I am treated as if my symptoms are irrelevant or that I am a psych case. Does anyone know about CINE done with an MRI or any other way of diagnosing Arnold Chiari other than the classic 5mm drop? Or does anyone know of an Arnold Chiari specilist near Portland Oregon? Seattle? SanFrancisco? ... Sheila Moran, 24 August 2006



Hello everyone. I live in Calgary Canada, and had surgery for Chiari Malformation in 2003. I have since had all my symptoms return. My family doctor has decided my condition is to complicated and has discontinued my care. I now do not have a doctor, my surgion has moved and there is no support in Calgary that I know of. I am a 42 year old female and can't take this pain anymore. No one understands how I feel everyday. I just want the pain to go away but it never does. I would appreciate any information on Chiari or any Canadian resorces. Please help ... Jacquie, 10 September 2006



I was diagnosed with ACM in April of 2004 and was going to have surgery the following month. During routine pre-surgery bloodwork they found me to have Von Willabrons disease with is a rare blood disease. Now my Dr. doesn't think it is safe because of possible complications with my blood. I have one of the top neurosurgeons in the nation by the name of Swiad N. Swaid. Yes, that is really his name and he is at Brookwood Medical Center in Birmingham, Alabama. Has anyone had any similar problems? ... Angela Dye, 16 November 2006



How are you doing, I was diagnosed in february of this year. I had surgery on June 5, 2006 and I am doing wonderful. My doctor name is David Barnett and Baylor Medical Center downtown dallas. He is a wonderful, patient and he is a christian. He told me I had one of the worst cases he had ever seen and that my progress is great. I have returned to work and I am back at school. I travel out of town and I feel great. Please give him a call I know he could possible help ... Ruby Canty, 4 January 2007



I was diagnosed with ACM over 10 years has recently become so bad that I lose vision and often black out. I went back to my neurologist and he did an MRI and an electrode scan and found that I have a major blockage....I am now waiting for the surgeons office to call me to set up an appt to do the surgery. However, I am terrified to death to go under for fear of not coming out of it ok. I have a 6 year old daughter who depends on me and thats what my main fear is. Can anyone explain to me about what happens in the surgery and afterwards??? Thank You ... Natashe Harrison, 23 January 2007



I have just been diagnosed due to a serious fall I had Dec.a year ago and have been referred to a neurosurgeon at Shands Gainesville, UOfFla. Can anyone explain the surgery to me. I came home after finding this out and had a few glasses of wine to cope. Truthfully I am scared. I am 58, took a fall in a pot hole at a convenience store which broke my ankle, tore the miniscus in my right knee and both rotator cuffs. I also hit my head on the curb so hard it knocked me out for seconds. Any info would be so appreciated ... Marilynn, 25 January 2007



try having acs with fibrous dysplasia in the whole left side of your head and most of your left side of your body ... M.C. Wiggs, 12 February 2007



I don't know where you are located, but Dr. Steven Swanson at the Michigan Brain and Spine Institute in Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti, MI. was fantastic. I had decompression surgery 10 years ago, and have only recently had some minor symptoms, probably due to 4 pregnancies in those years ... Megan, 3 May 2007


My daughter has pain levels of ten, she is not decompressed with 7 mm herniations. We are taking her to the Chiari Institute hopefully in July, and we have to have the dilaudid, an opioid, for the intractable chronic pain. Under the WV code laws, opioids can be overridden by a physician for this kind of pain.

Her pain is left eye oribital centering with the whole left quadarant of her head hurting like someone, she says, "hit her with a baseball bat." WE are trying to manage the pain, with vicodin in less quantities, and she is now in the hospital taking the dilaudid along with diamox, by a dr. who suffers with chiari too. It is a small world, and my chiari is 2mm, and in late fifties, I am struggling with all of the sypmptoms of chiari. Not the sixty of them, but many, and both my daughter and I share the phonobhobia, or the aversion for noises. So her migraines are never over, they just reduce them.

What meds do you know about, and why can the opioids not be used? If she does not decompress, and you have the stories that doesn't always work, how does she live and function like this?

The dr. now is pressured, he is young, and Mel has the DEA profile watch, then discovery comes with ACM. SO she needs her pain managed, and this can be a challenge. The right drugs, the right levels, and the right management.

I see no easy solution, and I just take the pain, because a four or a five is not like a ten. She has a TEN, and takes it down to a five or so.

So this is not easy, and we need some HELP ... Gary Richards, 7 May 2007



I was diagnosed with mild Arnold Chiari about 5 years ago after having had seve4al seizures. I've had no problems until recently sudden pain on one side of my head near my ears. Since no doctor seems to know much about it, do you know if this could be from the chiari? It's not a constant pain - like someone hitting my on the side of the head ... Andi NIchols, 13 September 2007



Should someone with Arnold Chiari Malformation 1 be in the Marines? My nephew just enlisted. Is he at a greater risk of injury than if he did not have this condition? ... Denise J, 30 September 2007



my mom has this promblem. she had a surgery when she was and then again when she as 26. I was really scared when I first found out but now I know it's all in God's hands ... Kali, 30 October 2007



I've been dealing with my ACM for almost 20 yrs and could not find and MD that wanted to take the time to understand and help. I was always referred to a surgeon, and we know what they like to do, which I elected not to do until I could have more of a guarantee of the results. So here are a few things that I have found to work for me. 1.Find a really good Chiropractor and see regularly, before the symptoms are too strong. 2. Excedrine for migrane at the first twing and take 3, to kick it and always with a little food. 3. Get alot of sleep, the more the better. 4. Eliminate as much stress as possible, I know that's impossible but set boundry's it helps! 5.Take frequent breaks from work if at a computer. 6. Don't work at a job that requires alot of standing, it increases the symptoms. 7. Stay physical, the stronger we stay the less likely the ACM will win! 8. Keep your weight down, the more overweight the stronger the symptoms. 9. Watch the salt intake, the swelling can be brutal. Hope this will help someone. It's years of trial and error! ... Edie, 12 November 2007


Donna Mace's picture

Please send me any

Please send me any information. I am researching. Also, do you have mri scans for before and after?

Donna Mace's picture

moving herniation back into the skull

My phone number is I would love to hear about this procedure, how you are doing and of course the doctor and anything else you can think of to tell me. Thank you for posting and giving new hope. Donna

Lynn M.'s picture

Please advise what city/state

Please advise what city/state your
osteopath doctor is in. I live in North Florida.
If he is in my area, please advise his name.
Thank you,

Serendip Visitor Cindy's picture

Doctor who can move the herniation back


I saw your post on this forum. Can you please email me the name of this doctor, where he is and how to reach him? My son's ACM symptoms are getting worse and I am terrified of the surgery.


Julia's picture


Hi Jenn,

What exactly is OMM. Could you please explain it and what is the name of the Dr. who performed this procedure? Where is his practice?

Julia R.

Serendip Visitor's picture


As I was reading your post, I felt like I was reading my own story. I was diagnosed 1 year ago. The Doctor told me it was nothing to worry about because it was only a 2mm. But yet, I was experiencing practically ALL the symptoms of Chiari1 Malformation. I have done alot of research and get different opinions from different Doctors. Some will say that it is nothing to worry about unless it is over 5mm, where other Doctors will say it does not matter the size, you can experience symptoms no matter what mm you have. I have also had severe headaches pretty much all my life. But a year ago, it came to it's peak. I saw a neurologist (headache specialist) who put me on several medications. I just could not tolorate the side effects, I am not a pill taker. So I discontinued and refused to take them. The headaches continued with a vengence. It got so bad that I had stroke like symptoms and was rushed to the hospital on 4 occasions. With each ER visit, I was kept in the hospital for a week at a time. They ran every test imaniginable. I truly thought it was the end of my life. I was getting these terrible episodes where I thought I was dying. Along with all the other symptoms (migraines, dizzy, ringing in the ears, numbness, pain in my neck and head, pressure in my head-I thought my head was going to explode, and just a feeling that I was going to die). I had MRI's, CT scans, heart tests, you name it. Finally, the neurosurgeon I was seeing suggested I go to a psychiatrist. I thought, there you go...they think I'm crazy! I left his office thinking that no one understands what I'm going through. It was hard for me to fathom going to a psychiatrist. I have always been in control and level headed. It finally got so bad, and I was feeling like I didn't want to live like this anymore. I decided to get evaluated through my insurance at a mental health facility. While I was in the waiting room, I experienced the worst feeling I've ever had. By the time I got in the back for my (they call it intake review) I was crying and in so much pain in my head. I told him of my not wanting to live like this anymore. They sent me for a nights stay in a mental hospital. It was the worst night of my life. I knew I did not belong there. The next morning they called me into the office where there was a medical doctor (she was fantastic!) and the psychiatrist. After examining me and asking ALOT of questions, they determined I was having panic attacks! Before this visit, I had 6 doctors and none of them told me it may be panic attacks. Panic attacks are a very common symptom of Chiari. I have found this out by doing alot of research and listening to other Chiari patients. They put me on Klonopin. I was afraid to take it at first. They prescribed me 2mg at night disolved under the tongue. I cut them into 4, so I only take 1/4. I have not had a panic attack or a migraine in 6 months. They don't make you feel weird or anything. They do help me to sleep the whole night through. I have no other side effects. Since I am taking such a low dose, I do not worry about getting addicted to them. If I do get a migraine, I take Imitrex. They take the headache away immediately without side effects like aspirin, motrin, or any other narcotic (which never work for me anyway). I'm telling you this because you mentioned you felt like you were losing it. That is exactly how I felt. My suggestion is to try Imitrex for your migraines and a small dose of Klonopin at night and see how you feel. It wouldn't hurt to try this. I feel your pain, believe me. I hope this helps you....


D'Aireus Of Arizona's picture

Chiari 1/2/3 Malformation & Decompression Surgery

I was diagnosed with Chiari 1 back in 2003 I had, had bad migraines since grade school however my nurse then told me it was normal for an active kid my age to have them... Long story short not until my sophomore year during football games and track events did anyone find anything out, when I would pass out and be out for hours on hand (shortest time 1hr 30 mins) did someone who worked in the health field with my mother notice the Chiari. I would have headaches so bad I would be bed stricken for days, I was on ever migraine and seizure medication possibly know or FDA approved and nothing worked. On July 10, 2009 I was hit by a drunk driver pulled from my car drug into the middle of the highway and left for dead, I was then bumped to Chiari 2 and paralyzed from the waist down after several moths of ICU and CCU I was then sent for emergency decompression surgery because my pressures were so I the doctors didn't under stand how I could see, and thought it had a part in my paralysis because I had no spinal fractures or injuries other than narrowing. After my surgery for 1 day I had no problems then my headaches gradually got worse and worse all over again after 6 more moths of rehab I was finally released to go home from the hospital after my accident. Til this day I have gotten only one diagnosis which was that I had a spinal stroke. My headaches are getting worse day by day I have days I feel like im having a stroke I have the 7-10+ on the pain level headaches everyday. My neurologist have put me on Oxycontin, Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, Tanzinidines, Topamax, all at max mg and amount a day and many more however none of the medications work please I JUST WANT THE PAIN TO GO AWAY! If anyone knows of anything please let me know... Im at a stand still at this point in my life I am only 22 and I just want to be able to have a day with out any pain or headaches.

John's picture

Chiari type 1

I have suffered with headaches from I was a child,treated as migraines.In 1985 I was diagnosed with having Pseudo Tumour Ceribri which caused severe intense pain, excruciating giving me a Dr Heckle and a Mr.Hyde personality.This was accompanied with intermittent blindness and swelling of my optical disc a condition called papiladema which can lead to blindness.Lumbard Puncture(draining of C.S.F Fluids) was used as a method of treatment as my medications Diamox along with anabolic steriods didnt help at times.Within 2-3 weeks the intra-cranial pressure would return which made me a chronic case .My Drs were very confused they wanted me to put a shunt in however I decided against this as I wanted to explore all possibilities available to me.After seeing lots of Doctors I ended up at the Montreal Neurological Hospital in 2004 where I was seen by a Dr.Liam Durcan wonderful man a keen listener and very calm,it is very important to relate easily to anyone who treats you.I was diagnosed with Chiari Type 1 Malformation,this I was told is a textbook case.Both illness had similarities Pain, Obstruction in vision ,Blockage of C.S.F Fluid.The latter contributed tremendously to the former diagnoses.I have had consultations re: decompressions,however I am been monitored by my Drs as im told this does not require surgery at this present moment.I have the symptoms of hoarseness,pain on sneezing,lifting heavy things and I have the other illness to deal with.I believe in alternative medicine and take my overall health very serious,remember the body functions as a whole and if one part is out of sync it can affect other parts.Weight management and eating healthy helps, tremendously. I take supplements which helps me remarkably,Fish Oil,Magnesium,Co-Enzyme Q10,Selenium and lots more.Most importantly no matter how much pain I may feel my FAITH supersedes my pain.Having a positive attitude is one of the best medications to take as worrying destroys your immune system and throws your body out of wack .It blows away any benefits of your Medication and or supplements.If I dont tell you im sick you would never know.You have to maintain a positive attitude and P.U.S.H (Pray until something happens,always works just believe).

Serendip Visitor's picture

help please.

hi. my partner had decompression surgery just over a week ago and he is suffering from 'migrane' headaches almost all of the time. is this normal and all part of the healing process or does this mean it has not worked? please help i am so worries and paranoid. Thanks

Monika's picture


I had awful pain..called dr and they gave me some super duper steroids that tweaked me out for some days but finally ended the is a hard and long healing process..but should get better slowly...watched for fluid build-up below occiptical bone, not good, call dr immediatly..good with anymore questions or just for support

Rhys's picture

ACM & Mental Health

I was diagnosed just over 10 years ago - I was 15 years old and had been suffering undiagnosed for a year. I suffered the most painful headaches imaginable and my neck was constantly stiff, I would choke when I drank water and sneezing became a major issue. I was also diagnosed with Hydrocephalus. I can only describe the first year as hell. Not one person believed that I was ill and consultants were ready to write me off.

I have had two operations (a Shunt and a decompression), and have been given the all clear. I live a very normal life now (apart from a severe distrust of Dr's).

One thing that I've noticed however, is a growing obsessions. I have obsessive thoughts, which I never used to have and I wonder if this is related.

I do not know anyone else with ACM (my uncle had Hydrocephalus for different reasons). Does anyone know of a relationship between ACM and Mental Health?

Monika's picture

I was obsessive before my

I was obsessive before my surgery, after not such much bc I figured "don't sweat the little things!" I've never heard any studies on a relation between mental health and acm

Dr. David Sewell AP's picture

Patients should try hypnosis

As an acupuncture physician who is also a clinical hypnotherapist I would like to suggest to patients who are suffering from the complications associated with Chiari to try hypnosis. Western medical science has been studying hypnosis for over a century. It's utility for pain management is well established in the medical community. Less known, but even more intriguing, is the effects of hypnosis on the brain's neuroplastcity. Emerging science indicates that hypnotherapy can achieve remarkable effects in helping the brain to rewire itself after strokes/CVAs. Chiari patients should seriously consider working with a hypnotherapist to not only help their physical discomfort, but with other symptoms as well.

stephanie mims's picture

where is Doctor Oro?

Hi Robin, I am not going to tell you to " look him up" I think that is soooo rude. Doctor Oro is located at The Neurodurgery Center of Colorado and the Chiari Care Center. 1444 South Potamac Street Suite 170 Aurora, Coloraod 80012 303-481-0035 and faxline is 303-752-5240....Any questions, hit me on facebook....(stephanie mims)

Serendip Visitor's picture

chiari 1 malformation

Hi Stephanie,
I was just diagnosed with chiari 1 malformation last month. My symptoms consist of severe neck pain and throbbing in the back of my head and tingling in my face. I have also developed essential head tremors. Are you aware of essential tremors stemming from the Chiari? Did you have Dr. Oro operate on you?

Serendip Visitor's picture

Dr. Oro in my eyes, saved my

Dr. Oro in my eyes, saved my life. I am 16 years old and have been suffering from headaches since I was 8. However, they increased in the last 3 months so tremendously that I was in so much pain...all I could do was try to stay in one position day and night:( school was in no way an option because the only thing I was able to focus on was the headaches. Without my mom's pressuring, the doctor would never have done the CT and later MRI to find out I had a 25 mm Chiair Malformation! Again, my mom saved me by not listening to all of the neurologist and neurosurgeons who didn't even know of the thing and said surgery wouldn't work and only handed me some pills, by taking me to Dr. Oro. It has only been 3 weeks and 5 days since my surgery...and I am doing better than I had been for the past 8 years:) also, Dr. Oro is amazing at only shaving a small amount of hair off, and already my scar is barely visible! If you need surgery, I would highly recommend him! I hope all goes well with you!

Julia's picture

What are essential head

What are essential head tremors....what do they feel like?

Jessica Wood's picture


I was diagnosed with ACM about a week ago after seeing multiple doctors who dismissed my symptoms (one Doctor even pointed at his forehead as to indicate that the symptoms were psychosomatic.) Here is something I found that I hope may be of help to some of you that are desperate for alternative options:

and here is my webpage

linda's picture

chiari help

the web page you posted is blank,ive been thriough all the same buul as everyone else 8 mm herniation ,all the saymptoms they can name i have i wok in a nursing home and had these symptoms arise after a realy bad week ,the worker comp doc the symptoms arent chiari the few sympoms they look for i didnt have so he said,,but he disregards the 30 others.he said you just have to deal with it. you dont want to loose your job now do you....what the hell is with this jerk...i will probably loose it antway if i go back feeling like thisheadaches are so bad,dizzy,memory loss,blurred vision,clumbsiness,weakness in my arm and leg ect.... love to see that page thanks linda

Mrs. Emily's picture

Arnold Chiari Physician

My Daughter was diagnosed with Arnold Chiari Malformation at 15 due to having persistent chronic headaches since she was very young and idiopathic Scoliosis (no family history of scoliosis). At that time the pediatrican at Rush Medical Center in Chicago informed me that 1=3% of cases of Idiopathic Scoliosis was due to Arnold Chiari malformation. Well she was in that percentage group! She was diagnosed, bracing was already initiated, and surgery was done due to fluid collecting in her spinal column due to the pressure building up. Well she was referred to neurosurgeon Dr. Lorenzo Munoz at Rush Medical Center in Chicago. He ws absolutely wonderful, and my daughter has been wonderful ever since. I'd highly recommend him! So competent!!! Give him a call for evaluation. You won't be disappointed. He was life changing, especially when I think of ll of the things that could have gone wrong. Hope this helps!

Serendip Visitor's picture

your daughter/neurosurgery

Hi Mrs. Emily, I cam across your comment from last fall regarding your daughter and her care at Rush. I live in Chicago and have some questions. Could you email me?

Tammy 's picture

Chiari Malformation

Hello everyone...My name is Tammy I live in Calgary Alberta Canada I have 3 children one which lives with me. I am so glad im not alone... I was diagnosed with Chiari 1 about 2 months ago. well from all my reading and talking to the surgeon it seems to be worse.... I can barely stand this any more the pain is unbearable.. and percocet does not work worth a beans..I have what i call episodes daily .. mostly from laughing sneezing yawning.. I also found out from the neurosurgeon here i have pockets of fluid build up going down my spine.. which is affecting my walking.. I can barely do anything any more without pain.. the surgeon figures i have had this for ten years or more.. which would explain alot. The symptoms are really bad now.. I have watched you tube videos and read lots... the one symptom i have i am not sure how to deal with hoping i can get some answers here. I am newly claustrophobic and can not handle the MRI machine.. I am due to go for another MRI Oct 11th. they are giving me atavan but not sure its going to help i have panic and anxiety attacks now.. which is really odd for me.. I do have the decompression surgery mid to end of Nov.After reading all these stories.... I do understand .. If there is anyone in Calgary please feel free to Email me.. I would like to organize a fund raiser when I have recovered from surgery.So anything i need to know before my surgery would be wonderful too ..thank you . If anyone knows how I can get some phamphlets also.. i will bring awareness to Calgary... No one knows the pain we deal with daily , they can try and understand but they dont know. ...please email me or comment and let me know ... thank you so much .. hugs and loves and prayers to all of you. And if I have seemed in anyway cranky at all I am sorry.

Serendip Visitor's picture

Calgary Chiari

Hello! I am so happy to find someone who has been diagnosed and lives in Canada. I found out in August and have had 3 MRI's done to confirm all tests...type 1 Chiari. I am waiting a neurosurgeon and was told it will take 18-24 months to even see one?!? I can't wait that long and put my life on hold from the neck pain, headaches and other symptoms. I would love to meet up and see how your surgery went, who your NS was in Calgary and see how you are now.

Please contact me as I would love to speak with you, and also get more awareness for others in this situation who arent diagnosed properly. I have fought with doctors for years.


Marlene's picture

surgery in Ohio or Pa

Anyone have surgery at the Cleveland Clinic or UPMC for Arnold Chiari?

buddy fed's picture


Had CM1 operation at presby hospital in Pittsburgh in Aug of 09,, two weeks later developed menitigitis,, spinal fluid coming out of my neck, had revision surgery two days later, has never been right since,, now losing control over everything,, cant walk, serious problems when standingup,, I give up,, I let these basterds cut me up, now I am not takken seriously with all my symptoms

tina's picture

I had surgery in 2002 at

I had surgery in 2002 at Hillcrest hospital. Surgeon was Theresa Ruch. Amazing doctor.

Lisa hasenflu's picture


I had surgery at the Cleveland clinic in 1984 and they were amazing.. The only hospital that correctly diagnosed me.

Serendip Visitor's picture

type 1 arnold chiari malformation

Six days ago I was sitting in my car waiting on my kids to come out the house so I could take them to get something to eat. As I sat there I felt my whole left side of my body go numb and feel kind of heavy. My speech started slurring and I couldn't remember certain things. I went to the hospital and they ran all kinds of test, at first they thought I had a stroke so they kept me in the hospital for two days. Just as I was about to be released a doctor came in and told me I had type 1 arnold chiari malformation and to look up the information online at medical websites. Well that really scared me what I had read. I not sure will I have to live in pain for the rest of my life or the scary surgery would help. Will I be able to work and take care of my kids? Will I be on medication for the rest of my life. Are there a lot of doctors around that have treated this situation and know what I am going through with the pain because the doctors where I live at don't understand. I feel like they think the pain is all made up in my head.

Monika's picture

I was diagnosed with an ACM

I was diagnosed with an ACM in 2002. I had been going to the doctor for years begging for help with my "weird" headaches. I was about to go on a trip with a coworker, when he refused until I went to the dr because I was losing my mortor skills. Oddly, I went to an internal medicine dr, referred by a friend, that was extremley worried about my headaches. I told him they were really no big deal because I had been living with them as long as I could remember, I was 31. He had me in an MRI the next day, I was called into a neurologist office and told my brain was falling out of my head. My symptoms were severe; constant ringing in the ears, memory loss, loss of balance, loss of motor skills, floaters in my vision, etc. I was so use to living with all this I really paid no attention to any of it. They wanted to operate immediatly but I wanted to wait till after the hloidays, I mean really, I had it since I was born, what was another 3 months. I was really never worried, I had a awesome team of surgeons at the Semmes- Murphy clinic here in Memphis that made me feel comfortable. But I will not lie, I said many times during my recovery I would never do it again, but now that I have healed i would do it all over again.They cut out a 4x6 inch piece of my skull replacing it with the muscle of a cows heart and removed the C1-C3 crossbones in my neck. Recovery was slow, 6 months off work, no driving for 4 months, lots of stipulations, but the alternative was to be a quadrapalegic. I have not regained my lost memories, my friends joke about it and I developed migraines, which are miserable, but I would still go through the surgery again. I will tell you that acupuncture has also been a tremendous help, I know a lot of people may think that is crazy, but it has worked for me.I do not take any meds, and I function normally. I resumed evertything I did before; hiking, canoeing, whatever. I don't know if I helped any or not. I just know it helps to talk to someone that understands the pain. Find a doctor that understands!! like I said, memory loss is a big part of it and I cannot for the life of me remember my drs name, but a good place to start is Semmes_ Murphy.....good luck

Julia's picture

Hi Monika, Do you remember

Hi Monika,

Do you remember how many millameters your cerebellum was out of your skull? Just wondering how your Chiari compared to mine.


Monika's picture


9mm. I'm under the care of a neurologist who has referred me to a specialist in my area.

Emma Raffell's picture

Chari-after surgery???

Hi my daughter was diagnosed with Chari 2.5yrs ago and had surgery 3 wks after mri scan showed it..she was very poorly couldnt walk, eat,ect she was 12yrs old at the time,however since the surgery she still has probs with her legs/back and neck some days her speech is even slurrred shes 15 now but sometimes really struggles, we have seen a dr but just keep getting told theres nothing they can do or may be she has knock knee ect but just wondered if anyone has any advice or nos why she feels like this?? should we push it further or has she just got to live with this??? thanks

Kristina's picture


So , thought I was having a stroke and went to ER. Diagnosis "possible" TIA (stroke). Biggest surprise was result of MRI...ACM1 with 15mm herniation. Went to Neurosurgeon and yes, surgery is recommended. He also recommended I see a Rheumatologist ( I also have Arthritis and Fibromyolagia ) Together they felt it was in my best interest to start physical therapy prior to surgery. It makes sense to strengthen muscles in advance and work on co-ordination. So far sound advice. Now the have or not to have the surgery. Lots of symptoms ( that like many others were attributed to problems not related to ACM1 because we [me and doctors] did not know about it, not unusual).So at just shy of 60 years young I am still undecided. Thankfully there is no pressure from my surgeon, he has left it up to me to decide when. As he aptly stated..."you were born with this and have lived with it for 59+ years, so unless there is a drastic change, the choice is yours." .........So far I have used very little pain meds. over the years but I can detect there are changes. In the not to distant future I will in all likely-hood need to quit being stubborn and take the meds. So I pose this question to you, What are the benefits to the surgery and in your heart of hearts do you feel it was worth the risk, would you do it again ??

Serendip Visitor's picture

To Kristina 15mm, ACM

Hello, how has everything been going? Did you get the surgery? My 15yo son was diagnosed yesterday. They said he was born with it. He has 10.8mm. He has NO SYMPTOMS. He got a mild concussion from football and they discovered the Arnold Chiari from there. I dont want to do the surgery , especially since he has NO symptoms. I am scared. Looking for advice. Thank you.

Christy Seawell's picture

Tendonitis symptoms

My daughter had surgery for ACM in Jan. 2010. 13mm herniation and syrinx from her c-1 to c-5 & T-1 to L-5. She also has a wing scapula on her right side and since surgery her left shoulder is growing into a wing scapula. She has not gotten any better except for her headaches are down to 2-3 a week. She has a Basillar Impression??? Constant neck and back pain. Trouble swallowing, forgetful, arm and hand pain, along with leg and ankle pain. She seen the doctor on 5-13-11 and he told me she is not growing right and has tendonitis in both ankles...this child is not active and when she does try to take walks she pays for it dearly. The doctor told me there is nothing they can do...I will not accept that and would like to know if anyone out there has any advice for me or if you have the same symptoms. I have a facebook page "Christy Seawell" West End NC. Please help! Please help! I know God is in control, but I truly believe he wants me to stand up and fight for her. She is only 12 years old and a shining light on this world. Please email me at . Thank you, Christy

Julia 's picture

Hi Christy, I wrote a reply,

Hi Christy,

I wrote a reply, but it disappeared from my screen so I am not sure if it was sent or not, so if you get 2 responses from me, apologies.... What I said though, may need to get more opinions from other neurosurgeons who are very knowledgable in Chiari which could mean traveling more. There are Chiari Clinics in New York, Milwaukee, WI- Dr. Heffez, and in Denver, CO -Dr. Oro. You may also find other Dr.s on chiari websites like this one or I have Chiari and traveled over 2000 miles to see Dr. Oro and other Dr.s in my area as well. The good thing though is that your daughter is still very young and the success rates are much better for young people than older people in their mid 40's and up like me... I have not had surgery yet due to that 'iffy' statistic.
God Bless your daughter and you too for your quest in her good health.

Julia R.

Serendip Visitor's picture

Oh Christy, it breaks my

Oh Christy, it breaks my heart to hear of such a young girl not able to enjoy her life like she should. I do pray for your daughter to find the right doctor who can help her. I was just diagnosed with Chiari. I have excruciating headaches and tingling and numbness in my arms and fingers. Your daughter has a much worse case than I do. My advice is to not ever give up. Continue to fight for her and keep searching for a doctor that can help her. Don't ever believe that there is nothing else they can do. There is a Chiari Institute in Greatneck, NY. Their website is They have alot of good information there. I would get as much information from any source you can and follow up with any of them that may lead to a cure for her. My prayers go out to you and your daughter. I pray you find someone to help her real soon and she is healed. We need more shining lights in this world.


Kimberly Bastianelli's picture

Parent of siblings with Chiari and Syrnix

Both of my children my son who was 8 at the time had a 10 mm herniation. My daughter was 10 and had a 16mm herination and a large syrnix. I was wondering if there were any genetic studies that are being done to siblings with this disorder. My doctor said he had done many chiari surgeries but only 2 on sibling sets. Both are many years post-ob and basically free of all their symtoms, which make very happy but would like the name of some research studies. Thanks

Serendip Visitor's picture

Duke University

Duke is running a genetic study.

Julia 's picture

genetic study

There is a study going on in North Carolina I believe on siblings who both have Chiari. I forgot which school, not sure if it is Duke...? If I find which school is doing the study I will reply back again. I found this out last year on the Conquer Chiari website. You could look there for updated studies as well.


Serendip Visitor's picture

Chiari One Malformation

I was just diagnosed with Chiari Malformation. While mine is only 2mm, I am experiencing many, many symtoms. My Neurologist tells me it is nothing to worry about. He too is puzzled why I am experiencing so many symptoms. I believe that Chiari is very much misunderstood by many Doctors out there. My Doctor dismisses my symptoms and says something else is causing them. I have daily migraines with occasional auras, daily nerve pain headaches (different from migraines), electrical pain that shoots up the head when I sneeze, cough, laugh, or bend down. Dizziness to the point of almost passing out. I have sleep apnea, sinus congestion without having any other symptoms of a cold or allergy. My spinal cord is also compressed in the C5-6 area. Please reply and let me know if anyone has found a Doctor that understands Chiari and has been treated. Does anyone know if there is financial help for those who can't afford the surgery or treatment?

Serendip Visitor's picture

There is help - and educated specialists!

Hi! Do not fret. You are not alone and there are many doctors that are qualified and specialize in the treatment and successful surgical rehabilitation of people sufferring as you are. I'm not sure where you are or your situation (as you alude to affording surgery and treatment), but The Chiari Institute and Dr. Poalo Bolognese is a good place to start. They have a website that you can google and an information packet for folks seeking consultation. It could be that you actually have compounded problems - not just Chiari. There are many other doctors (neurologisits as well as neurosurgeons) that others may suggest, I just have experience with TCM as does my sister and trust their physicians.

I've also been seeking other doctors, so I'm interested to see who answers you!

Good luck!

Serendip Visitor's picture

Help for Chiari

Thank you so much for replying. I am in Las Vegas. I haven't found alot of doctors that know too much about Chiari here. But I do agree with you, my symptoms may be compounded by other problems. I have settled a bit (mentally) since I first got the diagnosis. At first I was very distraught, thinking I needed to have surgery right away. But now I am thinking of just treating the symptoms instead of pursueing surgery. I will continue to educate myself and keep aware of others with Chiari and their outcome. I'm going to a Pain Management doctor who is going to put an injection in my head for the nerve pain. So hopefully that will help. I do have a question for anyone who might know...Does Chiari ever get worse? Mine is a 2mm right now. In time, if not treated, is this something that will grow or get worse? Many people have asked me that question, and I don't know the answer. THANKS!!

Serendip Visitor Susan's picture

Can Symptoms return

Hi, my name is Susan and I had my first surgery for ACM in 1988. I am so thankful that I had 15 years that were great. My symptoms have returned and have actually added a few more. I read an article on one of the Chiari sites that stated that they thought around 20% of Chiari patients have had symptoms return. The odds are in your favor that they won't. The journey down the Chiari path is one with many many turns. If you don't have a Dr. that you are comfortable with, keep making appointments and seeking out new Dr's. It is very important that you have a good relationship with whomever is treating you. Even though I have some pretty bad days, I have more Good Ones. I think those of us that have been choosen to have ACM must be very special people. I have learned a lot and have become a better person as I have ventured down the "Chiari Road". Good Luck and I will say a prayer for you............

Julia 's picture

Hi, I have a 6mm herniation


I have a 6mm herniation and also have herniated discs around the same area as you. I got a cortisone shot (block) that helped with the pain. The Dr.s wanted to wait about surgery and see how this helped. It might help you to see if the pain is coming from the compressed discs or from chiari. Insurance covers the cortisone shot, at least mine did.

adama's picture

complication of csf leak

Had a pfd for c1m and did find until a year later; complications are set in; swelling lump in back of head and neck with severe headaches and cannot move my head backward or look up; limb weakness, and pain doing anything.

Sherry 's picture

swelling lump in head and neck after cm1 surgery

Hi Adama, did you have surgery for your Chiari Malformation? if so did you ever find out what caused the sweling in the back of your head and neck?

No Surgery's picture

I was told I have Chiari in

I was told I have Chiari in 2009. The symptoms was textbook and some more. After being told that I had no other option than to operate I went for a more alternative treatment. I dont know if this could possibly help anyone else but since I started avoiding Sugar and MSG I dont get sick. I follow the bloodgroup diet and go for regular Biofeedback sessions. No more opthalmic migraines. My vision is improving(I have macular degeneration). I can stand up without falling. Swallowing problems is history. Verigo is gone. No more ringing in ears. I go to gym and is regaining my strenth in my arms and legs. I can climb steps without difficulty. For the first time in a very long time I live like a normal person and no one will even know that I have Chiari unless I tell them.

Kathy Filippelli's picture

Chiari I

I just read your comment on the site. I have a Chiari I malformation and they are going to do further MRI's to see what is going on with it. My main symptom now is almost daily headaches. I, too, am very interested in alternative treatments. Surgery, I pray, will not be happening with me. If possible, can you e-mail me back and let me know how you are doing and what alternate treatments worked best for you.
Thanks so much.
Long Island, NY

Serendip Visitor's picture

Up untill today I am still

Up untill today I am still healthy as a horse... No symptoms. I must admit it is not easy to stick to the diet but the alternative is much worse and I keep on reminding myself everyday. I am still on the bloodgroup diet and go for regular biofeedback sessions. Avoid sugar and msg as far as possible and then a possitive attitude helps with the rest.

Hope it helps!

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