Suboccipital decompression for Chiari malformation-associated scoliosis: Risk factors and time course of deformity progression

Frank J. Attenello, Matthew J. McGirt, April Atiba, Muraya Gathinji, Ghazala Datoo, Jon Weingart, Benjamin Carson, George I. Jallo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Object. Chiari malformation Type I (CM-I) is often associated with scoliosis. It remains unclear which subgroups of patients are most likely to experience progression of spinal deformity after cervicomedullary decompression. The authors' goal was to determine the time frame of curvature progression and assess which patient subgroups are at greatest risk for progression of spinal deformity after surgery. Methods. The authors retrospectively reviewed the records of all pediatric patients with significant scoliosis in whom suboccipital decompression was performed to treat for CM-I during a 10-year period at a single academic institution. Clinical, radiological, and operative variables were assessed as independent factors for failure (worsening of scoliosis) by using a univariate regression analysis. Results. Twenty-one children (mean age 9 ± 3 years; 4 male) underwent hindbrain decompression for CM-I-associated scoliosis and were followed for a mean of 39 months. All patients harbored a syrinx. Eight patients (38%) experienced improvement in scoliosis curvature, whereas 10 (48%) suffered a progression. Thoracolumbar junction scoliosis (p = 0.04) and failure of the syrinx to improve (p = 0.05) were associated with 5- and 4-fold respective increases in the likelihood of deformity progression. Each increasing degree of preoperative Cobb angle was associated with an 11% increase in the likelihood of scoliotic curve progression (p < 0.05). Conclusions. Over one third of patients with CM-I-associated scoliosis will improve after cervicomedullary decompression alone. Cervicomedullary decompression is a good first-line option, particularly in children with concordant posterior fossa symptoms. Patients presenting with more severe scoliosis (increasing Cobb angle) or scoliosis that crosses the thoracolumbar junction may benefit from earlier orthopedic involvement and should be monitored regularly for curvature progression after cervicomedullary decompression. In cases in which there is a failure of the syrinx to show improvement after suboccipital decompression, the patients are also more likely to develop curvature progression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)456-460
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2008


  • Chiari malformation
  • Outcome
  • Predictors
  • Scoliosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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