Outcomes after suboccipital decompression without dural opening in children with Chiari malformation Type I

Benjamin C. Kennedy, Kathleen M. Kelly, Michelle Q. Phan, Samuel S. Bruce, Michael M. McDowell, Richard C.E. Anderson, Neil A. Feldstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


OBJECT: Symptomatic pediatric Chiari malformation Type I (CM-I) is most often treated with posterior fossa decompression (PFD), but controversy exists over whether the dura needs to be opened during PFD. While dural opening as a part of PFD has been suggested to result in a higher rate of resolution of CM symptoms, it has also been shown to lead to more frequent complications. In this paper, the authors present the largest reported series of outcomes after PFD without dural opening surgery, as well as identify risk factors for recurrence. METHODS: The authors performed a retrospective review of 156 consecutive pediatric patients in whom the senior authors performed PFD without dural opening from 2003 to 2013. Patient demographics, clinical symptoms and signs, radiographic findings, intraoperative ultrasound results, and neuromonitoring findings were reviewed. Univariate and multivariate regression analyses were performed to determine risk factors for recurrence of symptoms and the need for reoperation. RESULTS: Over 90% of patients had a good clinical outcome, with improvement or resolution of their symptoms at last follow-up (mean 32 months). There were no major complications. The mean length of hospital stay was 2.0 days. In a multivariate regression model, partial C-2 laminectomy was an independent risk factor associated with reoperation (p = 0.037). Motor weakness on presentation was also associated with reoperation but only with trend-level significance (p = 0.075). No patient with < 8 mm of tonsillar herniation required reoperation. CONCLUSIONS: The vast majority (> 90%) of children with symptomatic CM-I will have improvement or resolution of symptoms after a PFD without dural opening. A non-dural opening approach avoids major complications. While no patient with tonsillar herniation < 8 mm required reoperation, children with tonsillar herniation at or below C-2 have a higher risk for failure when this approach is used.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)150-158
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Chiari malformation
  • Duraplasty
  • Non-dural opening procedure
  • Outcomes
  • Suboccipital decompression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Clinical Neurology


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