Child's Nervous System

, Volume 34, Issue 8, pp 1549–1555 | Cite as

Early analysis of operative management of Chiari I malformation in pediatric cystic fibrosis patients

  • Derek C. SamplesEmail author
  • Dewey J. Thoms
  • Izabela Tarasiewicz
Original Paper



Chiari I malformation, defined as herniation of the cerebellar tonsils at least 5 mm below the foramen magnum, can result from congenital or acquired pathology. While the mechanism is not well understood, an association between Chiari I and cystic fibrosis has been described in the literature. The lifelong respiratory status management necessitated by cystic fibrosis creates a greater risk of Chiari symptomatology as well as post-operative CSF-related complications in the setting of duraplasty secondary to recurrent transient increases in intracranial pressure. We will review the literature, describe our experience with these patients, and propose bony decompression as an approach to treatment.


A retrospective review of pediatric patients treated at our institution with both cystic fibrosis and Chiari I was performed. Since our first case in 2016, our department has evaluated four patients carrying that dual diagnosis. All four underwent posterior fossa decompression surgery. Two patients had incidental pathology. Two symptomatic patients exhibited headaches and/or coordination difficulty. Half of the patients had associated syringomyelia. All patients were offered posterior fossa decompression utilizing intraoperative ultrasound.


All four patients underwent posterior fossa decompression without duraplasty. Average operative time was 128 min. There were no complications post-operatively. Average hospital stay was 3.8 days. Average surgical length of stay was 2.3 days. Morbidity and mortality were 0%. The longest follow-up to date is 20 months. The two asymptomatic patients remained so post-operatively. The child with headaches and imbalance had complete resolution of his symptoms after surgery, as did the toddler with headaches. Both patients with syringomyelia demonstrated significant decrease in the size of their syrinxes on imaging performed at least 3 months post-operatively.


Based on the literature and our experience, we recommend considering posterior fossa decompression without duraplasty as treatment for pediatric cystic fibrosis patients with Chiari I malformation. This approach can be effective for symptomatic and prophylactic cases in this particular patient demographic because their comorbidities predispose them to Chiari pathology and symptomatology as well as certain post-operative complications.


Pediatric neurosurgery Chiari malformation Cystic fibrosis Posterior fossa decompression 



Thank you to David Garza for his editing contributions to the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

With approval from our Institutional Review Board, we performed a retrospective analysis of our internal patient database starting from January 2016.

Conflict of interest

The authors report no conflict of interest concerning the materials or methods used in this study or the findings specified in this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Derek C. Samples
    • 1
    Email author
  • Dewey J. Thoms
    • 1
  • Izabela Tarasiewicz
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Neurological SurgeryUniversity of Texas Health San AntonioSan AntonioUSA

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