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Chiari Malformation Symptoms and Diagnosis

To diagnose Chiari malformation, your doctor will conduct a physical examination and review your medical history. Imaging tests will also be required.​

Symptoms of Chiari Malformation

Chiari malformation symptoms may include:

  • Severe headache in back of the head after coughing, sneezing, or straining
  • Neck pain
  • Loss of sensation to pain and temperature
  • Loss of muscle strength in hands and arms
  • Spasticity, dizziness, or balance problems
  • Double or blurred vision
  • Hypersensitivity to bright lights

Tests for Diagnosing Chiari Malformation

A range of tests can help diagnose and determine the severity of Chiari malformation.

Although some people have no symptoms, others have symptoms that are not specific to Chiari malformation. Therefore, your doctor will conduct a careful exam and order imaging tests to rule out other conditions that may be causing your symptoms.

A diagnosis of Chiari malformation must be one of exclusion.

Some of the tests to help confirm this diagnosis include:

  • Brainstem auditory evoked potential (BAEP)
  • CT and MRI scans
  • Myelogram
  • Somatosensory evoked potentials (SSEP)


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