OHSU

Treatments & Conditions

Treatment of Chiari malformation depends on your symptoms, how serious it is and other factors. If you have no symptoms, you probably will not have treatment other than regular doctor’s examinations.

Pre-treatment Plan

At your first appointment, your doctor will have reviewed your comprehensive health questionnaire. Your answers give the doctor detailed information about your pain and ability to function. This will help determine how serious your symptoms are and what treatments will be most helpful.

Conservative (Non-Surgical) Treatment

If you have mild or moderate symptoms, you can usually be treated without surgery. If you have no symptoms, your doctor will monitor your condition with regular examinations and MRI and CT scans.

If you have headaches or other pain, your doctor may recommend pain medication such as:

  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Strong painkillers such as indomethacin (Indocin)

Medication can prevent or delay surgery for Chiari malformation.

Surgical Treatment

If your pain doesn’t get better with other treatments, or your Chiari malformation causes severe symptoms, you might need surgery. The goal is to reduce pressure on your brain and spinal cord and relieve symptoms.

The most common surgery for Chiari malformation is called posterior fossa craniectomy or posterior fossa decompression. Your surgeon removes a small section of bone in the back of your skull to give the brain more room. This relieves pressure.