NYMC Faculty Publications

Treatment of Chiari Malformations With Craniovertebral Junction Anomalies: Where Do We Stand Today?

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Student, Resident/Fellow, Faculty

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World Neurosurgery: X

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BACKGROUND: Chiari malformation type 1 (CM-1) is characterized by cerebellar tonsil herniation through the foramen magnum and can be associated with additional craniovertebral junction anomalies (CVJA). The pathophysiology and treatment for CM-1 with CVJA (CM-CVJA) is debated. OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the trends and outcomes of surgical interventions for patients with CM-CVJA. METHODS: A systematic review of the literature was performed to obtain articles describing surgical interventions for patients with CM-CVJA. Articles included were case series describing surgical approach; reviews were excluded. Variables evaluated included patient characteristics, approach, and postoperative outcomes. RESULTS: The initial query yielded 403 articles. Twelve articles, published between 1998-2020, met inclusion criteria. From these included articles, 449 patients underwent surgical interventions for CM-CVJA. The most common CVJAs included basilar invagination (BI) (338, 75.3%), atlantoaxial dislocation (68, 15.1%) odontoid process retroflexion (43, 9.6%), and medullary kink (36, 8.0%). Operations described included posterior fossa decompression (PFD), transoral (TO) decompression, and posterior arthrodesis with either occipitocervical fusion (OCF) or atlantoaxial fusion. Early studies described good results using combined ventral and posterior decompression. More recent articles described positive outcomes with PFD or posterior arthrodesis in combination or alone. Treatment failure was described in patients with PFD alone that later required posterior arthrodesis. Additionally, reports of treatment success with posterior arthrodesis without PFD was seen. CONCLUSION: Patients with CM-CVJA appear to benefit from posterior arthrodesis with or without decompressive procedures. Further definition of the pathophysiology of craniocervical anomalies is warranted to identify patient selection criteria and ideal level of fixation.