Treatment for Chiari I and II varies depending on many factors. These include the exact type of malformation, the progression of the structural defect and the child’s symptoms.
If your child has a syrinx in the spinal cord, the team will recommend decompression surgery. The purpose of this surgery is to relieve pressure on the brain and spinal cord.
Rarely, the medical team may recommend surgery to place a shunt. A shunt is a tube that can help establish a normal flow of cerebrospinal fluid around and behind the cerebellum.
Chiari I Treatment
If your child has Chiari I but does not have a syrinx or symptoms, no treatment is necessary. The medical team will perform follow-up MRI scans to monitor your child’s condition. If the malformation is causing neck pain or headache, pain-relief medication may help. If your child is experiencing swallowing issues, speech therapy may be helpful.
If the pain is severe, or your child is experiencing other symptoms that affect his or her quality of life, the medical team may recommend decompression surgery to relieve symptoms. Without surgery, a child will likely continue to have symptoms, which may worsen over time.
Chiari II Treatment
Children with Chiari II typically do not undergo surgery, unless the malformation is causing breathing and swallowing difficulties. In that case, the medical team may recommend decompression surgery.