Symptomatic Outcome after Bone-only Suboccipital Decompression in Adult Patients with Chiari Type I Malformations in the Absence of Hydromyelia or Hydrocephalus

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Type I Chiari malformation presents without an associated hydromyelia in 30 to 70% of cases, yet there is no agreement regarding the optimal surgical treatment for these patients. We review our experience for treating symptomatic adult type I Chiari malformation without hydromyelia using a suboccipital bone decompression of the hindbrain and no duraplasty in 12 adult patients. Outcome was measured according to the Chicago Chiari Outcome Scale (CCOS).


Nine of 12 patients were female; average age at surgery was 34.4 years (range: 17-67 years). Average duration of symptoms prior to surgery was 9.6 years (2 months-29 years). The most common symptom was head and/or neck pain (11/12 patients). All patients additionally presented with at least one non-pain symptom. Mean degree of tonsillar herniation on magnetic resonance imaging was 6.8 mm (range: 5-12 mm) below McRae's line. Operative time was on average 68 minutes (range: 47-120 minutes). No surgical complications were noted in any patient. Length of hospital stay was 2 days (1 overnight) for all patients. Mean follow-up was 167 weeks (range: 13-378 weeks). CCOS for all patients on average was 14.50 (range: 12-16). Pain symptoms underwent improvement (7/11 [63.6%]) or complete resolution (4/11 [36.4%]) in all affected patients. A shorter duration of preoperative symptoms significantly correlated with a better CCOS (p = 0.03). Degree of tonsillar herniation had no significant effect on CCOS (p = 0.67). Of non-pain symptoms, paresthesias/dysesthesias and visual symptoms improved or resolved completely in all affected patients. No patient experienced a worsening of either pain or non-pain symptoms.


In the subset of adult patients with a type I Chiari malformation and no associated hydromyelia, a craniectomy without an additional opening of the dura may achieve good overall results according to the CCOS.

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