A chronic and often progressive neurological condition in which a cyst (syrinx) fills with cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) inside the spinal cord, often enlarging and further compromising the spinal cord. The extent of damage done by a syrinx often depends on the size in diameter and location of the syrinx (as it tends to affect any areas at or below the syrinx).

These syrinxes are believed to form from the blockage of CSF (such as that which is consistent with a Chiari malformation, a spinal cyst, a bulging/herniated disc, a spinal cord trauma/injury, or even meningitis can cause inflammation that can obstruct the flow of CSF).

Symptoms generally include (from the syrinx down): muscle weakness, pain, and spasms in legs; pain, tingling, burning of arms; muscle wasting (atrophy); loss of reflexes; numbness, pain, and stiffness in back/shoulders/upper chest (cape-like area); neck pain; stiffness of muscles; muscle contractions (fasciculations); bowel & bladder dysfunction; scoliosis; paralysis (rare).

Surgery intended to alleviated the compression caused by a Chiari Malformation, and restore the flow of cerebrospinal fluid. While some surgeons prefer a conservative approach to surgery such as a “bone only” decompression or a “Minimally Invasive Subpial Tonsillectomy,” a full decompression usually consists of:

Note: It is very important that comorbid conditions are investigated prior to Decompression Surgery. Failure to realize certain conditions can lead to post-surgical complications and/or a failed decompression surgery.


When we speak of a “Chiari Specialist,” we are generally speaking of a doctor (usually a Neurosurgeon) who has made Chiari Malformation and its comorbid conditions, their primary practice. While they might do other neurosurgical procedures, the number of Chiarians they treat, far outweigh their other patients (usually several a day/week). Because they have made the successful treatment of Chiari Malformation their life’s work, they usually have published research for patients and other doctors to reference.