Is Chiari surgery dangerous?
No. The procedure is done frequently and patients do very well. At the Weill Cornell Brain and Spine Center, almost all patients (more than 90 percent) have successful outcomes. Complications from surgery, while theoretical, are rarely if ever seen. (Read more on Surgery for Chiari Malformation.)
How can I find the best surgeon for Chiari?
Finding the best neurosurgeon for your Chiari surgery can be a challenge. As with other procedures, the best surgeons are the ones with a lot of experience with your condition, so ask how many Chiari decompression surgeries he or she has done. Another important factor is where the neurosurgeon performs surgery. Chiari is a complex condition that requires multidisciplinary care, so the best choice is a neurosurgeon who practices in a major medical center with access to a full team. Most of all, the neurosurgeon needs to be someone who understands you, and with whom you feel 100 percent comfortable. For more information, see How to Choose a Neurosurgeon for Chiari.
How do I know what Chiari treatment I need?
Experienced neurosurgeons at major brain and spine centers have treated many patients with Chiari and will evaluate each new case carefully before making a recommendation. The best brain and spine centers take a team approach to patient evaluation, and consider input from multiple specialists before making a recommendation.
The neurosurgeon will make a recommendation based on the risk of surgery vs. the risk of not operating. If the patient does not have symptoms and does not have a syrinx, yearly monitoring is often all that's needed.
When can my child return to school, or when can I return to work, after Chiari surgery?
As long as your employment does not involve heavy exertion, you will usually return in two or three weeks. Children can return to school after two or three weeks, but should not participate in physical education classes or recess for about six weeks. (See more on Diagnosing and Treating Chiari Malformation.)
Do my children or relatives have a Chiari malformation? Should they all get tested?
Probably not. It is highly unlikely that any first-degree relative (parent, child, sibling, etc.) is affected. Unless your relatives have symptoms of Chiari, they do not need any MRIs or other diagnostic imaging. (Read more about Symptoms of Chiari Malformation.)
Are there any treatments for Chiari other than surgery?
No. Some patients do not require any treatment, and in some cases we can opt to treat the symptoms only, with pain medication. But managing pain does not treat the condition — surgery is the only option that treats Chiari. (Read more on Surgery for Chiari Malformation.)
Can I have the minimally invasive or endoscopic surgery for Chiari?
Possibly. All patients are potential candidates for minimally invasive or endoscopic surgery, and your neurosurgeon will discuss that with you thoroughly before making a decision. (Read more about Surgery for Chiari Malformation.)
Will I need more than one surgery for Chiari?
A second operation is very unlikely and may depend on the type of surgery performed. The potential for a secondary procedure ranges from 3 to 10 percent. In a child younger than 3 years of age, there is a higher likelihood of bone regrowth that may call for additional surgery later. (Read more about Surgery for Chiari Malformation.)