Classic treatment of Chiari malformation type 1 consists of foramen magnum decompression. Selected patients may require occipitocervical fixation, transoral odontoidectomy, tonsillectomy, and so forth. Treatment standardization does not yet exist, and some patients risk being overtreated.
A 20-year-old man with headache and Chiari malformation type 1 underwent extradural bone decompression. One year later, he was managed with the extradural section of his filum terminale. Eighteen months later, the patient underwent monitoring of intracranial pressure, occipitocervical stabilization, transoral odontoidectomy, minimally invasive subpial tonsillectomy, and occipital cranioplasty. His headache never changed, and he progressively developed hemiparesis and swallowing and respiratory disturbances. Two years later, a new magnetic resonance imaging scan showed extended syringomyelia with scarce peritonsillar subarachnoid space. The umpteenth operation consisted of the removal of a constricting epidural scar, arachnoid dissection, total tonsillectomy, creation of a wide subarachnoid space, and dural sac augmentation. The patient’s initial postoperative course was smooth, and his headache improved. However, 8 days after surgery, the patient acutely presented with vegetative disturbances and died because of malignant brainstem edema of unknown origin.
The story of this patient is not so uncommon. He underwent all the possible surgical treatments rather than a timely adequate osteodural decompression. Probably, he received less with more.