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Timothy E. Hopkins and Stephen J. Haines

✓ To illustrate the rapidity with which a child can develop a severe, symptomatic Chiari I malformation, the authors present the case of a 3-month-old infant with Seckel syndrome (microcephaly, micrognathia, craniosynostosis, and multiple other abnormalities) and posterior sagittal and bilateral lambdoid synostosis. The infant underwent magnetic resonance (MR) imaging shortly after birth; the initial image demonstrated the cerebellar tonsils in the posterior fossa, with no herniation. He subsequently developed severe apneic episodes and bradycardia; repeated MR imaging at 3 months demonstrated severe tonsillar herniation with compression of the brainstem. The child underwent posterior fossa remodeling surgery, including release of the posterior sagittal and lambdoid sutures and decompression of the Chiari I malformation. The patient's apnea gradually improved; however, he died of complications of pneumonia and sepsis several weeks later.

The authors identified from the literature 21 patients in whom there was a documented MR image or other neuroimage that did not reveal evidence of a Chiari I malformation, followed by a subsequent study with clear documentation of the presence of Chiari I malformation. The interval between the initial study and the development of the tonsillar herniation ranged from 11 days to 18.5 years. In most cases, a lumbar cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) diversion had been performed. This patient developed a severely symptomatic Chiari I malformation during a 3-month period. These reports illustrate that the Chiari I malformation can develop rapidly in the face of increased intracranial pressure, craniosynostosis, and spinal CSF diversion.