Recognizing Chiari Malformation In Babies

“Chiari malformations, types I-IV, refer to a spectrum of congenital hindbrain abnormalities affecting the structural relationships between the cerebellum, brainstem, the upper cervical cord, and the bony cranial base,” wrote Peyman Pakzaban, MD.


The symptoms of Chari Malformation in adults are difficult to notice since they do not necessarily occur. How much more of a challenge it is in babies? However, given it can be congenital or present at birth, diagnosis can be as early as infancy.


According to Mark Luciano, MD, PhD, Bryn Martin, PhD, Phil Allen, PhD, and Francis Loth, PhD, “While Chiari crowding may occur in 1 to 3 percent of the population, symptoms may occur in only 0.06 percent.”


It may be challenging to say if there is something we should concern ourselves as parents about our baby’s behavior. They are after all hard to understand as they may throw a tantrum from time to time. They are also prone to getting illnesses such as flu, fever, and other infections. So how do we know if what we see is already serious?


What Are The Signs of Chiari Malformation In Babies?



 1. Misshaping Of The Skull 



Chiari malformation may be congenital and hereditary, and its symptoms may begin to show during infancy while your baby develops. The obstruction and accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain cause pressure and can then change the shape of the skull entirely.



 2. Minimal Cognitive Function


Cognition includes our ability to comprehend, concentrate, and remember. When your baby is behind his cognitive developmental milestones, especially when he becomes a toddler, it could be a sign of Chiari malformation. It may also include poor communication and use of words.



3. Choking



Difficulty swallowing is alarming already, and it could worsen as it could be a sign of Chiari malformation. There are times when your baby has problem eating or drinking as if he is choking or something is obstructing his esophagus



4. Bone Defects



Chiari malformation has a direct effect on the spine, but it also affects the surrounding structures. It could appear as if the bone is too thin and weak to support the body. 



5. Premature Spine



Having a premature spine is normal for babies since they are still developing. There is a condition called infantile scoliosis which could very much be a sign of Chiari.  It could begin due to the misshaping of the skull.



6. Spasticity



Spasticity or the sudden involuntary movement of the muscles can also be a sign of Chiari. For instance, your baby would suddenly move his head or his extremities, and it seemed to be beyond his control.



7. Vision Problem



You might notice an involuntary eye movement, and there is a noticeable difficulty following objects. Infants should be responsive to their surroundings, but if they seem to be not responding to actions and lights, it could be a sign of Chiari.



8. Breathing Problem



Difficulty breathing especially when sleeping or sleep apnea could also be a sign of Chiari. You notice the abnormal breathing pattern and the constant grasping of air.



9. Ear Problem



Tinnitus or ringing in the ears could also be a sign of Chiari since it is a condition that starts in the brain. It could affect the senses including hearing since the ears are near the base of the skull.



10. Trouble sleeping




Babies have variation in their sleeping patterns like when they tend to stay awake when we expect them to be all tired and sleepy. They may have trouble sleeping at times caused by discomfort. In Chiari, it frequently happens, and your baby seems not to sleep anymore.


Chiari malformation can affect anyone, and though its symptoms are quite tricky to see as they may seem typical, when they happen or occur altogether, it could be a sign that you may need to visit a doctor to find out for sure.


 It may seem as if Chiari malformation does not pose a threat, and it is not fatal, so there is a chance that parents wouldn’t bother to pay close attention to it. However, this condition can eventually affect a person’s way of functioning, hindering a smooth and happy life. It is imperative that as parents, we are aware and vigilant about the matters surrounding our baby’s health.


Jeffrey W. Campbell, MD, reminds parents, “Many kids with Chiari I malformation do not have symptoms and never need treatment. But call your doctor right away if your child does show any symptoms, such as headache, balance or coordination problems, changes in pee or poop habits, or voice changes.”

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