Magnetic resonance imaging-based measurements of cerebrospinal fluid and blood flow as indicators of intracranial compliance in patients with Chiari malformation

J Neurosurg. 2005 Jul;103(1):46-52. doi: 10.3171/jns.2005.103.1.0046.


Object: The diagnosis of Chiari malformation (CM) is based on the degree of tonsilar herniation, although this finding does not necessarily correlate with the presence or absence of symptoms. Intracranial compliance (ICC) and local craniocervical hydrodynamic parameters derived using magnetic resonance (MR) imaging flow measurements were assessed in symptomatic patients and control volunteers to evaluate the role of these factors in the associated pathophysiology.

Methods: Seventeen healthy volunteers and 34 symptomatic patients with CM were studied using a 1.5-tesla MR imager. Cine phase-contrast images of blood and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) flow to and from the cranium were used to quantify local hydrodynamic parameters (for example, cord displacement and systolic CSF velocity and flow rates) and ICC. The ICC was derived using a previously described method that measures the small, natural changes in intracranial volume and pressure with each cardiac cycle. Differences in the average cord displacement and systolic CSF velocity and flow, comparing healthy volunteers and patients with CM were not statistically significant. Note, however, that a statistically significant lower ICC (20%) was observed in patients compared with controls.

Conclusions: Previous investigators have focused on CSF flow velocities and cord displacement to explain the pathogenesis of CM. Analysis of results have indicated that ICC is more sensitive than local hydrodynamic parameters to changes in the craniospinal biomechanical properties in symptomatic patients. The authors concluded that decreased ICC better explains CM pathophysiology than local hydrodynamic parameters such as cervical CSF velocities and cord displacement. Low ICC also better explains the onset of symptoms in adulthood given the decline in ICC with aging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arnold-Chiari Malformation / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Arnold-Chiari Malformation / pathology
  • Arnold-Chiari Malformation / physiopathology*
  • Blood Flow Velocity / physiology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid / physiology
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid Pressure / physiology*
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / physiology*
  • Compliance
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sensitivity and Specificity