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The Chiari I malformation

JNSPG 75th Anniversary Invited Review Article

Samuel G. McClugage III and W. Jerry Oakes

As with many pathologies, the course of our understanding of the Chiari I malformation (CIM) has developed extensively over time. The early descriptions of the Chiari malformations by Hans Chiari in 1891 opened the door for future classification and research on this topic. However, even over a long timeframe, our understanding of the pathophysiology and, more importantly, treatment, remained in its infancy. As recently as the 1970s, CIM was not discussed in popular neurology textbooks. Syringomyelia is listed as a degenerative disorder with no satisfactory treatment. Radiation therapy was considered an option in treatment, and surgery was thought to play no role. During the last 40 years, equivalent to the duration of a neurosurgical career, our understanding of the pathophysiology and natural history of CIM, coupled with modern MRI, has improved the treatment paradigm for this patient population. More importantly, it has given us evidence confirming that CIM is a disorder responsive to surgical intervention, giving patients once thought to be destined for lifelong disability a comparatively normal life after treatment. The purpose of this article is to offer a review of CIM and its important associated entities. The authors will discuss the evolution in understanding of the Chiari malformation and, importantly, distinguish between symptomatic CIM and asymptomatic tonsillar ectopia, based on imaging and presenting symptomatology. They will discuss techniques for surgical intervention, expected outcomes, and complications after surgery. Proper patient selection for surgery based on appropriate symptomatology is tantamount to achieving good surgical outcomes in this population, separating those who can be helped by surgery from those who are unlikely to improve. While our knowledge of the Chiari malformations continues to improve through the efforts of clinical and basic science researchers, surgeons, and patients, our current understanding of these entities represents a monumental improvement in patient care over a relatively short time period.

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Ian F. Pollack, Sameer Agnihotri, and Alberto Broniscer

Brain tumors are the most common solid tumors in children, and, unfortunately, many subtypes continue to have a suboptimal long-term outcome. During the last several years, however, remarkable advances in our understanding of the molecular underpinnings of these tumors have occurred as a result of high-resolution genomic, epigenetic, and transcriptomic profiling, which have provided insights for improved tumor categorization and molecularly directed therapies. While tumors such as medulloblastomas have been historically grouped into standard- and high-risk categories, it is now recognized that these tumors encompass four or more molecular subsets with distinct clinical and molecular characteristics. Likewise, high-grade glioma, which for decades was considered a single high-risk entity, is now known to comprise multiple subsets of tumors that differ in terms of patient age, tumor location, and prognosis. The situation is even more complex for ependymoma, for which at least nine subsets of tumors have been described. Conversely, the majority of pilocytic astrocytomas appear to result from genetic changes that alter a single, therapeutically targetable molecular pathway. Accordingly, the present era is one in which treatment is evolving from the historical standard of radiation and conventional chemotherapy to a more nuanced approach in which these modalities are applied in a risk-adapted framework and molecularly targeted therapies are implemented to augment or, in some cases, replace conventional therapy. Herein, the authors review advances in the categorization and treatment of several of the more common pediatric brain tumors and discuss current and future directions in tumor management that hold significant promise for patients with these challenging tumors.