Tests and diagnosisBy Mayo Clinic staff
Exam and medical history
The diagnostic process begins with your doctor taking your medical history and giving you a complete physical examination. Your doctor will ask whether you're having symptoms such as head and neck pain, and will ask you to describe them. He or she will also check your fine motor skills and swallowing ability.
If you have symptoms such as head pain, and the exact cause isn't apparent to your doctor, you'll likely undergo a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of your skull, which is the definitive diagnostic tool for Chiari malformation. Your doctor might also use computerized tomography (CT).
- MRI. This test is a safe and painless test that produces 3-D, high-resolution images of structural abnormalities that may be contributing to your symptoms. It can provide pictures of the cerebellum and determine whether it extends into the spinal canal. An MRI can be repeated and, over time, can be used to monitor the progression of this disorder.
- CT. Your doctor may recommend other imaging techniques such as a CT scan. A CT scan uses X-rays in conjunction with a computer to produce precise, sectional images of the bone tissue that surrounds the spinal column.
- NINDS Chiari malformation information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/chiari/chiari.htm. Accessed Sept. 23, 2010.
- Chiari malformation. American Association of Neurological Surgeons. http://www.aans.org/Patient%20Information/Conditions%20and%20Treatments/Chiari%20Malformation.aspx. Accessed Sept. 24, 2010.
- Syringomyelia. American Syringomyelia and Chiari Alliance Project. http://www.asap.org/index.php/disorders/syringomyelia/. Accessed Sept. 24, 2010.
- Developmental diseases of the nervous system. In: Ropper AH, et al. Adams and Victor's Principles of Neurology. 9th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2009. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aID=3637082. Accessed Sept. 24, 2010.