Preoperative estimation of intracranial compliance in symptomatic children with Chiari malformation type 1: impact on outcome and risk of complications

Acta Neurochir (Wien). 2024 Jan 18;166(1):22. doi: 10.1007/s00701-024-05897-3.


Background: The role of reduced intracranial compliance (ICC) in the outcome after foramen magnum decompression (FMD) was demonstrated in adults with Chiari malformation Type 1 (CMI). However, similar observations from children treated for CMI are missing.

Methods: We reviewed pediatric cases of CMI referred to FMD between 2006 and 2022. Children with clinical and/or radiological signs suggesting reduced ICC (Group A) underwent overnight measurements of the pulsatile intracranial pressure (ICP): mean ICP wave amplitude (MWA) served as a surrogate marker of ICC. Children with more typical symptoms of CMI (Group B) underwent FMD without preoperative ICC estimation. This study presents the clinical, radiological, and outcome differences between these groups.

Results: Sixty-four children (mean age 11.1 ± 4.3 years) underwent FMD: In Group A (n = 30), the finding of reduced ICC as estimated from preoperative ICP measurement resulted in CSF diversion (ventriculoperitoneal shunt) before FMD in 11 children. Two patients required shunt due to complications after FMD (total shunt rate 43%). In Group B (n = 34) treated with FMD without preoperative ICC estimation, five children (15%) required shunting due to complications. In Group A, we found a significantly higher frequency of headache, nausea, fatigue, and dizziness. The outcome assessed by the modified Chicago Chiari Outcome Scale (mean follow-up 83 ± 57 months) was comparable between the groups, but the complication rate after FMD was significantly lower in Group A (7% vs. 32%; p = 0.011). The number of procedures (ICP measurement, FMD, shunt, re-do FMD, shunt revisions) was significantly higher in Group A (2.6 ± 0.9 vs. 1.5 ± 1.1 per patient; p < 0.001).

Conclusion: In symptomatic children with CMI, the preoperative estimation of ICC from the overnight measurement of pulsatile ICP was more reliable for identifying those with reduced ICC than clinical and radiological assessment alone. When children with abnormally reduced ICC were identified and treated with CSF diversion before FMD, the complication rate was significantly reduced.

Keywords: Chiari malformation; Foramen magnum decompression; Intracranial compliance; Intracranial pressure.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Arnold-Chiari Malformation* / diagnostic imaging
  • Arnold-Chiari Malformation* / surgery
  • Child
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Foramen Magnum
  • Headache
  • Humans