Chiari Malformation Injuries Caused by Trauma

Chiari Malformation Injuries

Structural defects in the base of the skull and cerebellum (controls balance) are called Chiari malformations (CM) or cerebellar ectopia.  Doctors were sure that CM was primarily caused by a congenital defect. In recent years however, studies show that there is a correlation between a traumatic incident and a symptomatic CM.  One study conducted by The Taylor Law firm concluded that traumatic incidents that may cause CM include slip-and-fall or auto accidents.

In other words, the condition stays undetected with no symptoms until a traumatic episode awakens its symptoms. New research suggests that trauma may not only awaken the symptoms but can sometimes be the cause of the condition.


Chiari malformation explained

When the cerebellum becomes enlarged and begins extending down to the upper spinal canal, it is called a Chiari malformation.  This may happen if the skull is too small or misshapen, which may put pressure on your brain forcing it downward. This pressure on the cerebellum and brain stem may cause several other problems in other parts of the brain.  In some cases, an injury, disease or infection can cause fluid to drain excessively from the lumbar or thoracic areas of the spine. This condition is called secondary or acquired Chiari malformation and is not as common as primary Chiari malformation.

See also…Cerebellar Tonsillar Ectopia Causes

Signs or symptoms of Chiari malformation

Most people with Chiari malformation experience headaches whenever they sneeze, strain, or cough. There are other symptoms but they vary among people. These symptoms include:

  • Speech issues
  • Vision problems
  • Breathing problems
  • Problems with motor skills
  • Dizziness
  • General weakness
  • Numbness or weakness in the muscles

Infants that have Chiari malformation have difficulty swallowing, display excessive drooling, have a weak cry, experience gagging and more. Many people with Chiari malformation do not show any symptoms. They may only discover they have the condition after tests are performed on them for unrelated disorders.

Chiari Malformation caused by injury in Auto Accident

Whiplash injured patients are more likely to display symptoms of Chiari malformations. This may be because the whiplash involves the head moving forward violently then moving backward with great force. Such an episode can cause the cerebellar tonsils to pass through the opening at the bottom of the skull and into the upper part of the neck.

Professor Michael Freeman and Dr. Ezekiel Kornel, in their seminal study published in the Journal of Brain Surgery, state that there is a correlation between the violent forward then backward movement of the head during an accident and symptomatic Chiari. They came to this conclusion after reviewing 1200 cervical MRI results. In addition, the study confirmed that congenital Chiari often becomes symptomatic following a motor vehicle collision.

Types of Chiari malformations

Types of Chiari malformation are classified by how severe the disorder is. They include

  • Chiari malformation type I:  Causes severe headaches and other symptoms and signs that appear during late childhood or adulthood
  • Chiari malformation II: Changes breathing pattern and also causes swallowing problems among other symptoms. It can be diagnosed before or after birth.
  • Chiari malformation III: So severe that it may cause neurological problems. It is diagnosed at birth or by an ultrasound.

Contact your lawyer if your Chiari symptoms were caused by an accident.

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