Chiari Malformation: Onset of Symptoms After Accident Trauma

Chiari Malformation

Written by Jeremy D. Earle, JD

April 8, 2023

Can a Car Accident Cause Chiari Malformation?

The Arnold Chiari I Malformation is an often misunderstood disorder in which the cerebellar tonsils,  the lowest-lying region of the brain, are pushed out of their normal position within the skull.

Consequently, the affected person’s brainstem and upper spinal cord are often compressed by this  area of the brain. A Chiari malformation, in other words, is a structural impairment of the cerebellum, the portion of the brain that controls balance.

The cerebellum dips into the spinal canal, known as the foramen magnum, causing a Chiari Malformation.

Because the region of the displaced brain is often regarded as congenital (from birth) problems that  begin to produce symptoms once the victim reaches adulthood, a Chiari Malformation is also known as tonsillar ectopia or herniation.

The subject of whether Chiari Malformations are caused by head or neck trauma is a hot topic. Trauma, especially slight head trauma or whiplash, is thought to exacerbate or possibly initiate painful symptoms associated with a Chiari Malformation.

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What is a Chiari malformation, and how does it affect you?

A Chiari malformation is a condition in which a portion of the brain (the cerebellum) bulges through a regular hole connecting to the spinal canal. This causes moderate to severe symptoms by putting pressure on areas of the brain and spinal cord. The issue is present at birth in the majority of instances (congenital).

Chiari malformations come in a variety of shapes and sizes, although type I is the most prevalent. The cerebellum bulges through the standard hole at the base of the skull in class I. This condition is  almost always present at birth. It’s also known as type I main Chiari malformation. However, it is seldom discovered until a person is a teen or early adult.

This kind may also appear later in life in rare situations. This is referred to as a type I acquired or secondary Chiari malformation.

What causes a type I Chiari malformation?

The etiology of a type I congenital Chiari malformation is unknown. A malfunction might cause deformity during embryonic development. It may be caused by coming into touch with dangerous chemicals when pregnant. It might also be connected to hereditary issues that run in families.

A kind of Chiari malformation that has developed over time. It occurs after a person’s birth.

Excess  spinal fluid leakage from the lower back (lumbar) or chest (thoracic) portions of the spine cause it. This may occur as a result of an accident, exposure to toxic chemicals, or illness.

Chiari Malformations Signs and Symptoms Syrinx

Creating a syrinx, a fluid-filled pocket, or a cyst in the spinal cord is linked to Chiari malformations.  Syringomyelia is another name for this ailment. The cyst swells as it fills with cerebrospinal fluid, placing pressure on the spinal cord.

Increased pressure from a syrinx may compromise neuromuscular function in particular people with a Chiari malformation, causing limb weakness or difficulty walking or breathing.

A spine syrinx will be visible in some youngsters but not in others. An MRI scan may be required in some instances to provide a definitive diagnosis.


The existence of a syrinx may also be linked to the development of scoliosis, an abnormal lateral (side-to-side) curving of the spine in children younger than 16 whose spines are still developing.


Undiagnosed type 1 diabetes in toddlers, adolescents, and teenagers Chiari malformations may cause headaches, usually situated in the back of the head and neck and aggravated by physical activity.

Type 2 Hydrocephalus Chiari malformations may also be linked to hydrocephalus, a disorder in which the flow of cerebrospinal fluid is obstructed within the brain’s ventricles (fluid-filled regions).

The pressure within the head rises as the fluid builds up, causing the child’s skull bones to grow to a larger-than-normal size.

Apnea (sleep deprivation)

Another issue that patients with Chiari malformation face are sleep apnea. This is a serious sleep condition characterized by short breathing disruptions while sleeping. The asleep study may clarify  whether or not you have sleep apnea, allowing your doctor to recommend therapy.

Other Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of a Chiari malformation include: Hoarseness

Muscle weakness, loss of balance, or atypical reflexes • Difficulty swallowing • Rapid, side-to- side  eye movements (nystagmus)

Nerve issues, such as paralysis


If you don’t have any symptoms, imaging testing may reveal the disease for other reasons. If you have symptoms, your doctor will inquire about your medical history and do a physical examination.  You may be referred to a specialist by them.

To diagnose a Chiari malformation type I, imaging techniques are used. One or more of the following tests may be administered to your child:

MRI. This is the most common test for diagnosing Chiari malformations. It creates comprehensive images of the interior of the body using big magnets and a computer.

A CT scan This examination creates comprehensive photos of the body’s interior using a sequence

of X-rays and a computer. A CT scan is more challenging to do than a standard X-ray. What are the different types of Chiari malformations, and how are they treated?

A neurologist or a neurosurgeon might treat you. These are professionals who specialize in issues involving the brain and spinal cord. The treatment you get will be determined by your symptoms,  age, and overall health. The severity of the ailment will also pick it.

There are no symptoms. Your health may be carefully monitored. This might entail physical examinations and MRIs regularly.

With signs and symptoms, Medicines to relieve pain may be prescribed by your doctor. They might also choose for surgery. This is done to reduce brain pressure or to restore spinal fluid flow.

There are minimal or no symptoms other than a syrinx. Your doctor may recommend using a form of MRI called cine phase contrast to keep a close eye on the issue. The flow of spinal fluid is examined in this examination. It also examines locations where fluid is obstructed.

Based on the MRI  findings, or if your symptoms worsen, you may require surgery.

If you show indicators of sleep apnea. If you have sleep apnea, you may require a sleep study. Sleep apnea is a condition in which you stop and resume breathing while sleeping. An asleep study may also assist your healthcare practitioner in determining if you need further therapy.

Chiari Malformation-Related Research

Several studies have demonstrated that stress generated by a car accident might symptomatically  awaken a previously undiagnosed Chiari I malformation.

While these studies found that head or neck trauma can “trigger” symptoms associated with Chiari I malformations, Michael D. Freeman and a group of other experts set out to answer an even more intriguing question in a 2010 study: could motor car crash trauma be the only cause of a Chiari I malformation? It is feasible, according to the response.

According to the notion, people with Chiari have an undeveloped cranial cavity, rendering them  more prone to a worsening or aggravation of a pre-existing condition [see ref]. The cerebellum may be pushed farther into the foramen magnum by trauma. As a consequence of the accident, an asymptomatic Chiari might become symptomatic.

Auto Accidents and Chiari

Auto accident victims often begin to exhibit the symptoms mentioned above only to discover that  they have had a Chiari Malformation for a long time before the trauma. After the beginning of symptoms, a typical MRI scan is used to detect a Chiari Malformation. The symptoms are often  chronic, lasting for an extended period (usually six to twelve months from onset).

Unfortunately, persons suffering from the symptoms of a Chiari Malformation have limited therapy alternatives. Decompression surgery is only performed in a tiny percentage of instances with significant pain or neurological issues.

Chiari may significantly obstruct the passage of cerebrospinal  fluid, causing a buildup in the brain. This may disrupt normal brain activities and impact a variety of body systems.

Fortunately, those in Colorado who suffer from Chiari-related symptoms that started after a traumatic event have options. Although the illness is hereditary, the symptoms may be caused by (even slight)  head or neck trauma. An accident victim’s claim to compensation for exacerbation or aggravation of a pre-existing injury is recognized in Colorado. This implies that if a victim of negligence can show that the traumatic accident caused the symptoms, Colorado courts will compensate the person for the medical treatment and suffering they have endured.

Is a Car Accident to Blame for My Chiari Symptoms?

The following are some factors that will be evaluated when determining if your symptoms are the result of an accident:

If the person was symptom-free before the stressful accident. Whether the accident resulted in serious head or neck damage.

When did the Chiari-related symptoms appear (within six (6) months of the trauma)? Whether a pre-existing ailment causes the symptoms. Images of Chiari Malformations The images below depict where and how the bulge arises in the Chiari Malformation. Chiari Diagnosis

Finding out you have a Chiari I Malformation isn’t the end of the world. If someone else’s carelessness has exacerbated your genetic disease, see a qualified attorney who has handled cases similar to yours.

The presence of a Chiari Malformation should not be overlooked. A meeting with a neurosurgeon is usually encouraged, so the doctor can go over the MRI film and see how it matches up with your  clinical symptoms. Unfortunately, many doctors disregard the existence of Chiari Malformations, assuming that they are not a significant problem and relying on old research that classifies them as a congenital disorder.

We have brought various health care practitioners up to speed on new research demonstrating that an asymptomatic Chiari Malformation might become symptomatic due to trauma in our injury practice. When dealing with a claimant with symptomatic Chiari, insurance companies rely on obsolete science.

We often fight such instances when the relevant insurance provider fails to examine Chiari’s claims before filing a lawsuit properly. As a result, expert evidence becomes a big part of many cases. Many  resources are required to effectively fight a Chiari case, including hiring a radiologist and a neurosurgeon to present and explain this problem to a jury.

We’ve been entrusted with various instances concerning Chiari Malformations on behalf of other lawyers. We take satisfaction in championing the case of those who have been turned down because their illnesses are hereditary. Warrior Car Accident Lawyers, can help you immediately.

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