Rare association between cystic fibrosis, Chiari I malformation, and hydrocephalus in a baby: a case report and review of the literature

J Med Case Rep. 2011 Aug 12;5:366. doi: 10.1186/1752-1947-5-366.


Introduction: Cystic fibrosis, an epithelial cell transport disorder caused by mutations of the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator gene, is not generally associated with malformations of the central nervous system. We review eight previously published reports detailing an infrequent association between cystic fibrosis and Chiari I malformation.

Case presentation: To the best of our knowledge, our report describes only the ninth case of a baby presenting with a new diagnosis of cystic fibrosis and Chiari I malformation, in this case in a 10-month-old, full-term Caucasian baby boy from the United States of America. Neurosurgical consultation was obtained for associated developmental delay, macrocephaly, bulging anterior fontanel, and papilledema. An MRI scan demonstrated an extensive Chiari I malformation with effacement of the fourth ventricle, obliteration of the outlets of the fourth ventricle and triventricular hydrocephalus without aqueductal stenosis. Our patient was taken to the operating room for ventriculoperitoneal shunt placement.

Conclusions: It is possible that the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator gene may play a previously unrecognized role in central nervous system development; alternatively, this central nervous system abnormality may have been acquired due to constant valsalva from recurrent coughing or wheezing or metabolic and electrolyte imbalances that occur characteristically in cystic fibrosis.