Arnold Chiari malformation, also known as "the jumping child" is an uncommon deformity where the head of the baby's skull does not stop in a smooth line and ends abruptly, creating the "spinning" appearance of an infant's head. This condition is usually caused by an abnormal growth in the baby's head or brain; this usually happens after birth, but can also be caused by an injury to the head during a surgical procedure or trauma to the skull itself.
Arnold Chiari malformation is typically a congenital condition that is present at birth and may not be corrected. Some deformities can actually be avoided in babies born before the age of two, however, if there is a history of skull defects and/or a problem with the spinal cord or brain at birth. Unfortunately, Arnold Chiari malformation is usually caused by a combination of many other factors including: excessive skull growth during the first year of life (known as macrocephaly), or abnormal growth of the brain (microcephaly) or head defects.
The symptoms associated with Arnold Chiari malformation vary greatly and are dependent on the location of the "spinning" in the skull. At the onset of this deformity, the baby may appear to be having trouble breathing. If the condition is more severe, the baby may even be unable to eat, making it even more important for the parents to seek medical advice and to seek the help of a pediatric surgeon. Some babies also may experience seizures, muscle weakness, and other issues, which require immediate treatment.
The first step in treating Arnold Chiari malformation is to determine what is causing it. Because there are several different causes, it is imperative that the cause is diagnosed and then treated. Sometimes this is determined by taking X-rays to look for tumors, and other times it is a simple procedure such as performing an exam on the head to see if there is a blockage.
Once a diagnosis has been established, the next treatment option is usually surgery
The surgery that will be performed depends largely on the severity of the defect and how far it extends into the brain or skull. The most common surgeries performed to correct this deformity are:
The last surgery to treat Arnold Chiari malformation is often performed after the child reaches a pre-menopausal age. If the damage is extensive enough that it cannot be corrected by a series of surgeries, then the only option may be to remove the baby from the womb and put him or her on birth control medications and wait until the body is able to heal itself.
Unfortunately, Arnold Chiari malformation often occurs on one side of the child's face, rather than both. When the cause of the deformity is a tumor, this can lead to significant loss of vision. In some cases, the only option is to have the eye surgically removed so that the surgeon can perform surgeries to correct the entire area of the face. It is rare for the damage to extend to the brain, although there are cases where the damage to the brain and the eye is so severe that the patient may need to have both eyes removed.
Arnold Chiari malformation is a very difficult condition to treat. The deformity itself is extremely painful, and it may even lead to the patient experiencing pain and developmental delays, so it is crucial that the parents are able to communicate with their doctor and obtain the best medical advice for the best course of action. Many children live their entire lives with the pain of this condition, so it is vital that they receive the right treatment and care.