Suboccipital Craniectomy

Suboccipital Craniectomy for Chiari Malformation

Chiari malformation is a structural abnormality in the brain in which the cerebellum is located in a lower position than usual. When Chiari malformation occurs, the cerebellum is situated below the foramen magnum (the opening to the spinal canal). In this location, more pressure is exerted on the cerebellum and medulla (brain stem), and the functions they control, including balance and motor control, may be adversely affected.


When a patient experiences symptoms such as headaches, difficulty swallowing, muscle weakness and numbness in the arms or legs due to Chiari malformation, surgery may be necessary. A suboccipital craniectomy is an effective procedure that can make more room for the cerebellum and relieve pressure on the spinal cord.

A suboccipital craniectomy is performed under general anesthesia. The surgeon makes an incision in the scalp at the back of the head. A specialized drill is used to create a hole in the skull bone and a portion of bone is removed. In some cases, this may provide enough extra room to relieve symptoms. However, for other patients, the dura (the covering of the brain and spinal cord) will be opened and enlarged using a graft.

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