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Acute presentation of Chiari 1 malformation in children



To review the literature about the acute presentation of Chiari 1 malformation in children, with a focus on acute cervical cord syndromes with impairment of the cortico-spinal tract. To analyze the possible precipitating factors and the pathophysiology of the acute onset.


Illustrative case presentation with literature review.


The literature includes just a few dozens of children with acute presentation of Chiari 1 malformation. The more frequent presentations consist of oropharyngeal dysfunction, cranial nerve impairment, high intracranial pressure, peripheral motor deficit. Acute impairment of cervical long tracts is very rare and we could find only 16 previously reported cases of cervical cord impairment with quadriparesis or hemiparesis.


Nowadays, a lot of asymptomatic Chiari 1 malformations are frequently observed owing to the wide diffusion of magnetic resonance imaging. This raised the question about the management of these patients. Despite severe and even lethal manifestations being reported in previously asymptomatic patients, the absolute rarity of acute deterioration does not justify prophylactic surgery. The diagnosis of Chiari malformation may be initially difficult in patients with isolated, acute, and unusual presentations but physicians should bear in mind its possibility, because prompt cranio-cervical decompression may be decisive.

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The authors thank Mrs. Arcangela Potenza for her invaluable help.

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Correspondence to Giuseppe Talamonti.

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Talamonti, G., Marcati, E., Gribaudi, G. et al. Acute presentation of Chiari 1 malformation in children. Childs Nerv Syst (2020).

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  • Chiari malformation
  • Abrupt onset
  • Headache
  • Oropharyngeal dysfunction
  • Quadriparesis
  • Syringomyelia