Chiari Malformation Center
Our program is directed by Dr. Sun H. Lee, who also leads our comprehensive Spine Center. At Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Rutgers University, New Jersey, where he previously held the position of Professor of Neurosurgery and Director of Comprehensive Spine Center for 14 years, he accumulated extensive experience in evaluating and managing patients with Chiari Type 1 malformation. Chiari malformation patient management has become one of his passionate interests.
Chiari malformation (Type I) is a congenital brain condition characterized by a downward herniation of the cerebellar tonsils, i.e. the lower aspect of the cerebellum (the “hind brain” which is responsible for balance and coordination) beyond the inferior limit of the main skull opening leading to the cervical spinal canal, the foramen magnum. Normally, the space at the foramen magnum is enough only for the presence of the lowest aspect of the brain stem (the medulla) as it transitions to the upper most aspect of the cervical spinal cord. In Chiari malformation, the herniated cerebellar tonsils cause “crowding” at the level of the foraman magnum, causing compression on the cervicomedullary junction (the transitioning area from the brain stem, i.e. medulla, to the cervical spinal cord). This “crowding” also results in obstruction to the normal cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) flow that occurs around the surface of the brain, brain stem and spinal cord.
For Chiari patients, it is critically important to know that not all patients require surgery at the time of diagnosis. A careful analysis of the individual patient’s age, medical condition, type and severity of symptoms must be conducted by an expert surgeon experienced in managing Chiari malformation prior to proceeding with surgery.
It is our mission to deliver world-class care to each and every patient with respect and compassion. We strive to treat each patient as if he or she is our own family member.