Research suggests that Chiari malformation may be an under-reported birth injury.
Chiari malformations are structural problems in the cerebellum, the area of the brain that maintains balance. The cerebellum normally sits above the foramen magnum with parts of the brain stem. The foramen magnum is in the lower back portion of the skull and leads to the spinal canal.
In a Chiari malformation, part of the cerebellum develops beneath the foramen magnum. This causes pressure on the brain stem and cerebellum, which may affect the brain adversely and prevent cerebrospinal fluid from flowing properly to the brain.
Symptoms of Chiari malformation may include neck pain, numbness, dizziness, vision problems, buzzing or ringing in the ears, nausea, insomnia, depression and headaches. Individuals with Chiari malformations often have related conditions such as hydrocephalus, spina bifida, syringomyelia, tethered cord syndrome or spinal curvature.
Chiari malformations were once believed to occur in approximately one in every 1,000 births, but research suggests that it may be much more common than previously thought. A complication in diagnosing the condition is that individuals may be asymptomatic until adolescence or adulthood.
Chiari malformations that happen during the development of a fetus can be caused by medical malpractice — including a doctor’s failure to warn a pregnant mother of the dangers of taking certain medications during pregnancy.