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William B. Lo, Kyaw Z. Thant, Jameel Kaderbhai, Nicholas White, Hiroshi Nishikawa, Michael Stephen Dover, Martin Evans, and Desiderio Rodrigues


Children with syndromic, multisuture, and lambdoid craniosynostosis undergoing calvarial surgery often have Chiari malformation type I (CM-I) (or cerebellar tonsillar herniation). The optimal management of this patient group, including the surgical techniques and timing of surgery, remains uncertain. Posterior calvarial distraction (PCD) is an effective method to increase the supratentorial cranial volume and improve raised intracranial pressure in children with complex craniosynostosis. This study investigated the efficacy of PCD in posterior fossa (PF) volume expansion and treatment of CM-I and associated syringomyelia (syrinx) in this group of children.


This retrospective study included patients who were surgically treated between 2006 and 2015. Over 10 years, 16 patients with multisuture synostosis, lambdoid synostosis, or craniosynostosis associated with a confirmed genetic syndrome, and a concurrent CM-I, were included. The mean age at the time of surgery was 5.1 years (range 8 months–18 years). Fourteen patients had pansynostosis and 2 had lambdoid synostosis. Eight had a confirmed syndromic diagnosis (Crouzon in 8, Apert in 4, Pfeiffer in 1, and Saethre-Chotzen in 1). Ten patients had raised intracranial pressure; 4 had syringomyelia.


The average clinical follow-up was 50 months (range 9–116 months). Clinically, 9 patients improved, 7 remained stable, and none deteriorated. The average distraction distance was 23 mm (range 16–28 mm). The PF anterior-posterior (AP) distance/width ratio increased from 0.73 to 0.80 mm (p = 0.0004). Although an osteotomy extending inferior to the torcula (compared with superior) was associated with a larger absolute PF AP distance increase (13 vs 6 mm, p = 0.028), such a difference was not demonstrable when the PF AP distance/width ratio was calculated. Overall, the mean tonsillar herniation improved from 9.3 to 6.0 mm (p = 0.011). Syrinx dimensions also improved in the AP (from 7.9 to 3.1 mm) and superior-inferior (from 203 to 136 mm) dimensions. No patients required further foramen magnum decompression for CM. Of the 16 patients, 2 had subsequent frontoorbital advancement and remodeling, of which 1 was for volume expansion and 1 was for cosmetic purposes. Two patients required CSF shunt insertion after PCD.


Following PCD, PF volume increased as well as supratentorial volume. This morphometric change was observed in osteotomies both inferior and superior to the torcula. The PF volume increase resulted in improvement of cerebellar tonsillar herniation and syrinx. PCD is an efficacious first-line, single-stage treatment for concurrent pansynostosis and lambdoid craniosynostosis, CM-I, and syrinx.