Chiari decompression is a surgical treatment for a rare condition called Chiari malformation, in which the brain tissue protrudes into the spinal canal at the back of the skull. The condition may be present at birth or may develop as the skull and brain grow.
The cerebellum, or back portion of the brain, is pushed into the upper spinal canal, which interferes with the normal flow of cerebrospinal fluid that protects the brain and spinal cord. This can lead to blocked signals from the brain to the body, or a buildup of spinal fluid in the brain or spinal cord, causing neurological symptoms such as headache, neck pain, numbness and tingling of the hands and feet, vision and speech problems, and dizziness.
The goal of Chiari decompression surgery is to stop the progression of the changes in the brain and spinal canal, as well as ease or stabilize symptoms. With this technique, the surgeon removes a small section of bone in the back of the skull. The covering of the brain is then opened and a patch is sewn in place to enlarge the covering and provide more room for the brain, thus restoring the normal flow of spinal fluid. Following surgery, patients receive periodic imaging tests to determine whether the surgery has restored the flow of cerebrospinal fluid.