Chiari Malformation Surgery

For children having symptoms of and who have been diagnosed with Chiari malformations, the treatment is surgery to create more space for the brain and spinal cord. Without surgery, symptoms will continue and may worsen.

Risks of surgery include excessive bleeding, cerebrospinal fluid leak, infection, no relief of symptoms, paralysis, problems swallowing, abnormal eye movements and anesthesia complications.

The family and the neurosurgeon decide if surgery is the best option.

The hospital offers tours of the surgical facilities several days a week. This program is very helpful for both child and family. Please call 513-636-8298 to make reservations for this educational program.

You will need to do a few things to get your child ready for surgery.  A checklist will help make sure you are prepared. View the pre-surgery checklist.

On the day before surgery, a nurse or technologist will take a sample of your child's blood for a complete assessment. You will need to have this done at the test referral center located at the main hospital or at one of the satellite facilities. The test referral center's hours of operation are 7 am-8:30 pm Monday through Friday and 8:30 am-4:30 pm Saturday. If you have questions, call the test referral center, 513-636-4461.

If your child's neurosurgeon has told you that your child will need a blood transfusion for surgery, you have the option of using the blood provided through Hoxworth Blood Center or donating through Hoxworth's Directed Donor Program.

Blood obtained through regular donations is as safe as blood secured through directed donors. This is especially true if the directed donor is not the parent or immediate relative. Women who have given birth within the past six months cannot donate blood. If you are interested in the Directed Donor program, call Hoxworth at 513-451-0910 or 1-800-830-1091.

To help prepare for a successful surgery, share with us your child's full medical history. Please report:

  • Any bleeding disorders within the family
  • Any medications the child is currently taking, including vitamins and herbal or natural supplements
  • Any medication allergies

Tell us if your child has a known allergy to latex. Any unexplained problems with surgery, watery eyes, sneezing or wheezing while playing with balloons may be due to a latex allergy. Anyone who has had multiple surgical procedures might have such an allergy.

On the morning of surgery, wash your child’s head with tear-free baby shampoo and then rinse your child's scalp thoroughly.

Arrive at the hospital two hours before the scheduled time of surgery and bring your child's overnight bag, the form completed by your child's pediatrician and your insurance card. If you plan on spending the night with your child while he or she recovers with us, remember to bring your own overnight bag.

A doctor called an anesthesiologist will talk with you about methods of pain control appropriate to your child's size and age. This doctor will also ask you about your child's past anesthetics as well as family reactions to general anesthesia. Be prepared to provide this information; it is very important in preventing possible reactions to anesthetic agents that may be used during the surgery.

The surgery is performed under general anesthesia. The length of surgery is specific for each patient, and you will be updated often during the surgery.

Your child will spend at least four to six nights with us following surgery.  When your child is able to eat regular food well and meets other discharge goals, he or she can go home.  Children usually return to full, normal activity in 12 to 14 days. Refer to any of the following sections if you have concerns once you and your child get home.

If your child is under 4 years of age, please give regular children's Tylenol as directed for his or her pain. Children older than 4 may be sent home with a prescription for oxycodone.

Please wash your child's incision each day with a mild shampoo. 

For several days after surgery, your child will not feel like being active. Activity should be limited to quiet play for the first week after leaving the hospital. Further activity instructions will be given at your first postoperative visit.

Your child should shower with mild baby soap or shampoo daily. A sponge bath with mild soap followed by rinsing with clean water is fine for smaller children. Do not allow the wound to soak in the bathtub.

Call the doctor, 513-636-4726, if you are concerned with your child's progress after surgery or if your child experiences:

  • Temperature greater than 102° F
  • Bleeding or drainage from the incision
  • Confusion or excessive sleepiness
  • Severe headache that does not stop with Tylenol and rest
  • Excessive vomiting

Our office hours are 8 am-4:30 pm Monday through Friday. For evenings and weekends, call 513-636-4200 and ask for the neurosurgeon on-call.

Last Updated 07/2013