Ventrolateral Tonsillar Position Defines Novel Chiari 0.5 Classification

Peter F. Morgenstern, Umberto Tosi, Rafael Uribe-Cardenas, Jeffrey P. Greenfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Background: Cervicomedullary compression in young children has been described in the context of Chiari type 1 malformation, with symptoms associated with the extent of tonsillar herniation below McRae line. Historically, Chiari type 1 malformation has been defined by tonsillar herniation of at least 5 mm. However, in certain populations, including very young children, Chiari symptoms may be present without this finding. A new Chiari classification is thus necessary. Methods: Cases involving patients up to 5 years of age evaluated for possible posterior fossa decompression were retrospectively reviewed. Preoperative symptoms, magnetic resonance imaging findings, surgical management, and short- and long-term outcome and follow-up were recorded. Tonsillar descent and presence of ventral herniation (VH) were recorded. We define VH as the tonsils crossing a line that bisects the caudal medulla at the level of the foramen magnum, thus creating a novel entity, Chiari type 0.5 malformation. Patients with ventrally herniated tonsils were compared with patients exhibiting more typical Chiari morphology. Results: Of 41 cases retrospectively reviewed, 20 met criteria for VH. These differed from cases without VH because of the predominance of medullary symptoms. In the VH cohort, 11 patients underwent surgical decompression with symptom resolution; 9 were initially managed conservatively, but 3 subsequently required surgery. Conclusions: We define a novel Chiari entity, Chiari type 0.5 malformation, characterized by ventral tonsillar wrapping around the medulla in young children in the absence of classic Chiari type 1 malformation imaging findings. These patients are more likely to present with medullary symptoms than patients without VH. They are also more likely to require surgical decompression and respond favorably to intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)444-453
Number of pages10
JournalWorld Neurosurgery
StatePublished - Apr 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Chiari malformation
  • Pediatric
  • Tonsillar herniation
  • Ventral herniation


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