Diagnosed with Chiari malformation? Trust Hoag.

At the Hoag Spine Center, our goal is ensuring the best outcome for every patient, with a focus on conservative treatments and minimally-invasive techniques. Facing a Chiari malformation diagnosis? Trust Hoag. From nationally renowned pain-management and acute-rehabilitation specialists to board-certified neurosurgeons, Hoag's team -- and team-centered approach -- is dedicated to treatment strategies that help patients come back strong from spinal issues.

Chiari Malformation Care at Hoag

According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, Chiari malformation occurs in about one in 1,000 people. But Hoag has the technology, experience and world-class team of physicians you need to heal, even from rare spinal conditions. Our patient-centered approach is all about you, taking into account both mind and body for better outcomes and fuller recovery.

Common Questions

What is chiari malformation?
Chiari malformation is a rare condition in which the cerebellum of the brain extends into the spinal canal due to part of the skull being smaller than normal or misshapen. This defect can force the brain downward into the spinal canal, restricting the normal flow of spinal fluid. 

There are three types of Chiari malformation, each with unique symptoms:

  • Type 1: Many with Type 1 Chiari malformation have no symptoms. For those that do, symptoms often appear in late childhood or early adulthood, with the most common being sometimes-severe headaches after coughing, straining or sneezing. Patients with Type 1 Chiari malformation can also experience balance problems, neck pain, dizziness, ringing in the ears, swallowing issues or numbness and tingling in the extremities.  
  • Type 2: Symptoms of Type 2 Chiari malformation almost always include myelomeningocele, a type of spina bifida in which the spinal canal doesn’t fully close in utero. Symptoms following birth can include swallowing issues, weakness in the arms and breathing difficulties. 
  • Type 3: The rarest form of Chiari malformation, Type 3 cases feature the most severe intrusion of the cerebellum into the spinal canal, and can cause significant neurological issues. Type 3 Chiari malformation has a much lower long-term survival rate than other types of the disease. 

How is chiari malformation diagnosed?
Many people with Type 1 Chiari malformation have no symptoms, and are only diagnosed after the issue is discovered during other treatments. Type 2 and 3 forms of Chiari Malformation are usually diagnosed during pregnancy or by tests performed soon after birth. For patients with symptoms, a physician will first perform an external exam, often followed by imaging tests to fully diagnose the condition. These might include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computerized tomography (CT) scans. 

What are the risk factors for Chiari malformation?
Though research suggests Chiari malformation may run in families, there are currently no known risk factors to predict who might develop the condition in utero.

Common Questions

I’ve been diagnosed with Chiari malformation. Now What do I do?
When you need spine care in Orange County, trust Hoag. At Hoag, our fellowship-trained team of spine specialists is here to help get you back to doing the things that matter most. We’re committed to treating you like a person, not a chart. Hoag provides the latest technology and treatments, with minimally-invasive techniques designed to help you recover quicker with less pain. Meet the Hoag Spine Center Team.

What treatments are available for Chiari malformation?
Your Chiari malformation care plan depends on the severity of the condition. While some cases may only need monitoring, more severe and symptomatic cases have several treatment options, up to and including surgery. For Chiari malformation, physical therapy, pain management, surgery, and even lifestyle changes can help make a difference.

Services Offered

Minimally-invasive robotic spinal surgery at Hoag
When your spine is on the line, trust Hoag for spine surgery. Hoag was the first hospital on the West Coast to offer the Mazor X Stealth™   advanced robotic navigation platform for spinal surgery. Combining 3D pre-operative planning tools with robotic precision, the system provides surgeons with advanced visualization of your body’s unique internal structures, and you with the great chance to come back strong from back surgery. Learn more about advanced robotic surgery at Hoag.

Award-Winning Care for the Spine at Hoag
There’s a reason why U.S. News and World Report’s 2022-2023 list of top hospitals ranked Hoag as High Performing — their top distinction — in neurology, neurosurgery and back surgery. A higher standard of care. Accurate diagnosis for more successful treatment. A multidisciplinary team of spine-care specialists who are committed to seeing you heal. That’s spinal care at Hoag. Read an essay about a real Hoag patient’s spine-care journey.

Confused about your condition? Trust Hoag Nurse Navigators

Facing a health issue that could involve surgery can be confusing for anyone. That’s why the Hoag Spine Center offers our unique Nurse Navigator program. These trained nurses are there for you, both as a guide and a resource for medically-accurate information about your unique diagnosis. It’s one more way Hoag is here for you through your journey as a patient, every step of the way. Get started with our spine nurse navigator.

Common Questions

What is chiari malformation?
Chiari malformation is a rare condition in which the cerebellum of the brain extends into the spinal canal due to part of the skull being smaller than normal or misshapen. This defect can force the brain downward into the spinal canal, restricting the normal flow of spinal fluid. 

There are three types of Chiari malformation, each with unique symptoms:

  • Type 1: Many with Type 1 Chiari malformation have no symptoms. For those that do, symptoms often appear in late childhood or early adulthood, with the most common being sometimes-severe headaches after coughing, straining or sneezing. Patients with Type 1 Chiari malformation can also experience balance problems, neck pain, dizziness, ringing in the ears, swallowing issues or numbness and tingling in the extremities.  
  • Type 2: Symptoms of Type 2 Chiari malformation almost always include myelomeningocele, a type of spina bifida in which the spinal canal doesn’t fully close in utero. Symptoms following birth can include swallowing issues, weakness in the arms and breathing difficulties. 
  • Type 3: The rarest form of Chiari malformation, Type 3 cases feature the most severe intrusion of the cerebellum into the spinal canal, and can cause significant neurological issues. Type 3 Chiari malformation has a much lower long-term survival rate than other types of the disease. 

How is chiari malformation diagnosed?
Many people with Type 1 Chiari malformation have no symptoms, and are only diagnosed after the issue is discovered during other treatments. Type 2 and 3 forms of Chiari Malformation are usually diagnosed during pregnancy or by tests performed soon after birth. For patients with symptoms, a physician will first perform an external exam, often followed by imaging tests to fully diagnose the condition. These might include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computerized tomography (CT) scans. 

What are the risk factors for Chiari malformation?
Though research suggests Chiari malformation may run in families, there are currently no known risk factors to predict who might develop the condition in utero.

Common Questions

I’ve been diagnosed with Chiari malformation. Now What do I do?
When you need spine care in Orange County, trust Hoag. At Hoag, our fellowship-trained team of spine specialists is here to help get you back to doing the things that matter most. We’re committed to treating you like a person, not a chart. Hoag provides the latest technology and treatments, with minimally-invasive techniques designed to help you recover quicker with less pain. Meet the Hoag Spine Center Team.

What treatments are available for Chiari malformation?
Your Chiari malformation care plan depends on the severity of the condition. While some cases may only need monitoring, more severe and symptomatic cases have several treatment options, up to and including surgery. For Chiari malformation, physical therapy, pain management, surgery, and even lifestyle changes can help make a difference.

Services Offered

Minimally-invasive robotic spinal surgery at Hoag
When your spine is on the line, trust Hoag for spine surgery. Hoag was the first hospital on the West Coast to offer the Mazor X Stealth™   advanced robotic navigation platform for spinal surgery. Combining 3D pre-operative planning tools with robotic precision, the system provides surgeons with advanced visualization of your body’s unique internal structures, and you with the great chance to come back strong from back surgery. Learn more about advanced robotic surgery at Hoag.

Award-Winning Care for the Spine at Hoag
There’s a reason why U.S. News and World Report’s 2022-2023 list of top hospitals ranked Hoag as High Performing — their top distinction — in neurology, neurosurgery and back surgery. A higher standard of care. Accurate diagnosis for more successful treatment. A multidisciplinary team of spine-care specialists who are committed to seeing you heal. That’s spinal care at Hoag. Read an essay about a real Hoag patient’s spine-care journey.

Confused about your condition? Trust Hoag Nurse Navigators

Facing a health issue that could involve surgery can be confusing for anyone. That’s why the Hoag Spine Center offers our unique Nurse Navigator program. These trained nurses are there for you, both as a guide and a resource for medically-accurate information about your unique diagnosis. It’s one more way Hoag is here for you through your journey as a patient, every step of the way. Get started with our spine nurse navigator.