While there is no current cure, the treatments for Chiari malformation are surgery and management of symptoms, based on the occurrence of clinical symptoms rather than the radiological findings. The presence of a syrinx is known to give specific signs and symptoms that vary from dysesthetic sensations to algothermal dissociation to spasticity and paresis. These are important indications that decompressive surgery is needed for patients with Chiari Malformation Type II. Type II patients have severe brain stem damage and rapidly diminishing neurological response.
Decompressive surgery involves removing the lamina of the first and sometimes the second or third cervical vertebrae and part of the occipital bone of the skull to relieve pressure. The flow of spinal fluid may be augmented by a shunt. Since this surgery usually involves the opening of the dura mater and the expansion of the space beneath, a dural graft is usually applied to cover the expanded posterior fossa.
A small number of neurological surgeons believe that detethering the spinal cord as an alternate approach relieves the compression of the brain against the skull opening (foramen magnum), obviating the need for decompression surgery and associated trauma. However, this approach is significantly less documented in the medical literature, with reports on only a handful of patients. It should be noted that the alternative spinal surgery is also not without risk.
Complications of decompression surgery can arise. They include bleeding, damage to structures in the brain and spinal canal, meningitis, CSF fistulas, occipito-cervical instability and pseudomeningeocele. Rare post-operative complications include hydrocephalus and brain stem compression by retroflexion of odontoid. Also, an extended CVD created by a wide opening and big duroplasty can cause a cerebellar "slump". This complication needs to be corrected by cranioplasty.
In certain cases, irreducible compression of the brainstem occurs from in front (anteriorly or ventral) resulting i