Background and purpose: Because of improved visualization of posterior fossa structures with MR imaging, cerebellar malformations are recognized with increasing frequency. Herein we attempt to describe and propose a rational classification of cerebellar malformations.
Methods: MR images obtained in 70 patients with cerebellar malformations were retrospectively reviewed. The cerebellar malformations were initially divided into those with hypoplasia and those with dysplasia. They were then divided into focal and diffuse malformations. Finally, they were separated according to other features, such as brain stem involvement and cerebral involvement.
Results: All patients with diffuse cerebellar dysplasia (muscular dystrophy [n = 10], cytomegalovirus [n = 6], lissencephaly [n = 3],) had abnormalities of the cerebrum. Patients with focal cerebellar dysplasia of the Joubert (n = 12) and rhombencephalosynapsis (n = 8) types had variable cerebral dysplasia. Patients with nonsyndromic focal cerebellar dysplasia (isolated focal cerebellar cortical dysplasia [n = 2], cerebellar heterotopia with cerebellar cortical dysplasia [n = 1], idiopathic diffuse cerebellar dysplasia [n = 1], Lhermitte-Duclos syndrome [n = 1]) and those with cerebellar hypoplasia (isolated cerebellar hypoplasia [n = 6], pontocerebellar hypoplasia type 1 [n = 1]) had normal cerebra. Patients with features of Dandy-Walker malformation (n = 19) had both hypoplasia and dysplasia of the cerebellum. No notable difference was found between the cerebella of patients with large fourth ventricle cysts (Dandy-Walker malformations) and those without large fourth ventricle cysts (isolated cerebellar hypoplasia). Therefore, the Dandy-Walker malformation seems to be heterogeneous.
Conclusion: Use of this classification system helps in the segregation and understanding of the relationship among cerebellar malformations. Although it will undoubtedly require revisions, this classification is a first step in combining imaging with molecular biology to facilitate understanding of cerebellar development and maldevelopment.