Chiari 1 Malformation Life Expectancy

Chiari malformation is a neurological disorder that affects the brain and spinal cord. What happens is that the lower part of the brain, called the cerebellar tonsils is pushed down from the skull and rests on top of the spinal column. Chiari 1 malformation is the most common type and occurs when an individual's skull is too small for the cerebellum. In some instances, the skull may be too small or out of shape, making it impossible to contain part of the brain. When searching for answers on the life expectancy of someone living with Chiari, it helps first to understand what Chiari malformation is and the dangers it poses and life expectancy to provide a clear picture.


There are certain dangers that Chiari poses in individuals. One is that by pushing the cerebellum tonsils down, the base of the brain endures more pressure and that can result in some neurological problems. Another is that the condition causes a blockage for the cerebrospinal fluid which is very vital. The spinal fluid contains nutrients to feed the brain and get rid of waste. It is also responsible for the protection of the spine and brain.

Is it Hereditary

The debate on if Chiari is hereditary rages on with scientists looking for definitive proof. It is possible, though, for the condition to run in a family. Speculation is that children born with the disease have a faulty gene from their parents. However, the chances of passing on the condition to an unborn child are minimal.

What is the Life Expectancy

Information on the life expectancy of Chiari 1 malformation is limited. There are still studies to improve the diagnosis of the condition, so it can be hard to tell how long an individual can live with it. The introduction of MRIs in the 1980s changed the dynamics and made it easier to make diagnoses. Type 1 is the least severe form; and so, it is possible to live a normal life. Several aspects will come into play when answering the question of how long someone with Chiari Type 1 can live.

Individual Struggles

Firstly, it is important to understand that Chiari malformation affects people differently. In one person the symptoms of the disease may be too much to live with while someone else may not even need treatment. For example, someone who experiences respiratory problems, dizziness, balance issues, and depression will have a short lifespan without the right treatment.

Type of Treatment

Another factor that will influence the lifespan of a Chiari 1 malformation sufferer is the treatment. Doctors have various ways to rectify the malformation resulting from this condition. Surgery is the most common treatment. The point of an operation is to reduce the pressure at the base of the brain. Some procedures may involve removing part of the skull, drilling a hole into the skull and inserting a catheter, or releasing the trapped fluid in the brain.

The success of a certain operation will impact the life expectancy of a patient. Some people can live normal lives after surgery but in some rare cases, individuals have developed other medical problems. It is why a patient must have the most suitable treatment for their health. In some cases, a patient may need to get a redo surgery when the tonsillar herniation persists.

A doctor may also decide to treat someone with Chiari Type 1 with medication in a case where headaches are other pains are the core symptoms. Such a person can live as long as is possible.

Post-op Care

There is also the post-surgery treatment to consider. How well a patient recovers and continues with their normal life depends on the post-op care, they get. Physical therapy is one way to increase the chance of a normal life. Some specialists also suggest cranial osteopathy after treatment. The right support after treatment will help a great deal in improving the quality of life. It is why patients should get follow-ups regularly.


Early diagnosis is another elemental. The development of symptoms does not have age restrictions. The symptoms of Chiari 1 malformation may not present themselves right away, so it may be hard to detect them. Living with CM for a long time will have its side effects. For instance, continued pressure on the spinal cord may cause nerve damage that may be irreversible even with surgery. Prompt diagnosis increases the chances of recovering a normal life. MRIs and CT scans have made it efficient and effective for doctors to detect Chiari malformation. Your GP can recommend these tests if they suspect symptoms of Chiari malformation.