Object. In this report the authors review their experience in the treatment of seven patients with symptomatic cerebellar ptosis following craniovertebral decompression (CVD) for Chiari I malformation.
Methods. The mean age of the patients was 37 years and the average amount of time between the initial suboccipital craniectomy and evaluation for cerebellar ptosis was 6.8 years. Five patients presented primarily with intractable headache and the remaining two patients with neurological deficits caused by recurrent syringomyelia. Three different surgical modalities were used to treat these patients: ventriculoperitoneal shunt placement (one patient), syringoperitoneal shunt placement (two patients), and partial suboccipital cranioplasty with or without intradural exploration (four patients). The mean follow-up period was 51 months. The three patients who underwent shunt placement procedures experienced poor results, with no evidence of symptom relief and continued neurological deterioration. In contrast, all four patients who underwent cranioplasty experienced good or excellent clinical outcomes. Postoperative magnetic resonance imaging studies revealed a reduction in the size of the syrinx cavity in patients who simultaneously underwent intradural exploration.
Conclusions. The emergence of symptomatic cerebellar ptosis following CVD for Chiari I malformation is primarily caused when the suboccipital craniectomy is too large for the specific patient. The cerebellar ptosis usually presents with severe headache and/or neurological deficit due to persistent or recurrent syringomyelia. Partial suboccipital cranioplasty, with or without intradural exploration, is effective in treating this condition.