Refining the Neuroimaging Definition of the Dandy-Walker Phenotype

AJNR Am J Neuroradiol. 2022 Oct;43(10):1488-1493. doi: 10.3174/ajnr.A7659. Epub 2022 Sep 22.


Background and purpose: The traditionally described Dandy-Walker malformation comprises a range of cerebellar and posterior fossa abnormalities with variable clinical severity. We aimed to establish updated imaging criteria for Dandy-Walker malformation on the basis of cerebellar development.

Materials and methods: In this multicenter study, retrospective MR imaging examinations from fetuses and children previously diagnosed with Dandy-Walker malformation or vermian hypoplasia were re-evaluated, using the choroid plexus/tela choroidea location and the fastigial recess shape to differentiate Dandy-Walker malformation from vermian hypoplasia. Multiple additional measures of the posterior fossa and cerebellum were also obtained and compared between Dandy-Walker malformation and other diagnoses.

Results: Four hundred forty-six examinations were analyzed (174 fetal and 272 postnatal). The most common diagnoses were Dandy-Walker malformation (78%), vermian hypoplasia (14%), vermian hypoplasia with Blake pouch cyst (9%), and Blake pouch cyst (4%). Most measures were significant differentiators of Dandy-Walker malformation from non-Dandy-Walker malformation both pre- and postnatally (P < .01); the tegmentovermian and fastigial recess angles were the most significant quantitative measures. Posterior fossa perimeter and vascular injury evidence were not significant differentiators pre- or postnatally (P > .3). The superior posterior fossa angle, torcular location, and vermian height differentiated groups postnatally (P < .01), but not prenatally (P > .07).

Conclusions: As confirmed by objective measures, the modern Dandy-Walker malformation phenotype is best defined by inferior predominant vermian hypoplasia, an enlarged tegmentovermian angle, inferolateral displacement of the tela choroidea/choroid plexus, an obtuse fastigial recess, and an unpaired caudal lobule. Posterior fossa size and torcular location should be eliminated from the diagnostic criteria. This refined phenotype may help guide future study of the numerous etiologies and varied clinical outcomes.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Cerebellum / abnormalities
  • Cerebellum / diagnostic imaging
  • Cranial Fossa, Posterior / abnormalities
  • Cranial Fossa, Posterior / diagnostic imaging
  • Cysts*
  • Dandy-Walker Syndrome* / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Neuroimaging
  • Retrospective Studies