Cardiac-Related Spinal Cord Tissue Motion at the Foramen Magnum is Increased in Patients with Type I Chiari Malformation and Decreases Postdecompression Surgery

Braden J. Lawrence, Mark Luciano, John Tew, Richard G. Ellenbogen, John N. Oshinski, Francis Loth, Amanda P. Culley, Bryn A. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Objective: Type 1 Chiari malformation (CM-I) is a craniospinal disorder historically defined by cerebellar tonsillar position greater than 3–5 mm below the foramen magnum (FM). This definition has come under question because quantitative measurements of cerebellar herniation do not always correspond with symptom severity. Researchers have proposed several additional radiographic diagnostic criteria based on dynamic motion of fluids and/or tissues. The present study objective was to determine if cardiac-related craniocaudal spinal cord tissue displacement is an accurate indicator of the presence of CM-I and if tissue displacement is altered with decompression. Methods: A cohort of 20 symptomatic patients underwent decompression surgery. Fifteen healthy volunteers were recruited for comparison with the CM-I group. Axial phase-contrast magnetic resonance imaging (PC-MRI) measurements were collected before and after surgery at the FM with cranial-caudal velocity encoding and 20 frames per cardiac cycle with retrospective reconstruction. Spinal cord motion (SCM) at the FM was quantified based on the peak-to-peak integral of average spinal cord velocity. Results: Tissue motion for the presurgical group was significantly greater than controls (P = 0.0009). Motion decreased after surgery (P = 0.058) with an effect size of –0.151 mm and a standard error of 0.066 mm. Postoperatively, no statistical difference from controls in bulk displacement at the FM was found (P = 0.200) after post hoc testing using the Tukey adjustment for multiple comparisons. Conclusions: These results support SCM measurement by PC-MRI as a possible noninvasive radiographic diagnostic for CM-I. Dynamic measurement of SCM provides unique diagnostic information about CM-I alongside static quantification of tonsillar position and other intracranial morphometrics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e298-e307
JournalWorld neurosurgery
StatePublished - Aug 2018


  • Cardiac-related brain deformation
  • Cerebrospinal fluid
  • Chiari malformation
  • Neurohydrodynamics
  • Phase-contrast MRI
  • Spinal cord motion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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