Object: Measurements of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) velocities in the foramen magnum are used to determine the functional significance of Chiari malformation Type I (CM-I). Significantly higher peak velocities are found in adult patients with CM-I than in adult control participants. In addition, it appears that higher CSF velocities are found in pediatric patients with CM-I than in adult patients. Variations in CSF velocities across age groups in healthy individuals, however, have not been systematically studied.
Methods: Phase-contrast magnetic resonance imaging was performed in 10 pediatric patients after induction of anesthesia to evaluate conditions thought not to affect CSF flow in the foramen magnum. The peak systolic and diastolic velocities were plotted with respect to age and compared with velocities obtained in a group of 10 healthy adult volunteers. Differences between the adult and pediatric groups were tested for significance by using the Student t-test. Peak velocities ranged from 1.9 to 19.9 cm/second in the pediatric group and from 1.2 to 4.5 cm/second in the adults. A trend line fitted to the data showed a decrease in velocity with age in the first two decades of life, and little change thereafter. Differences in the pediatric and adult groups were significant at a level of 0.05.
Conclusions: Peak CSF velocities vary significantly with age. To determine the normalcy of a CSF flow measurement, it must be compared with age-appropriate normative data.