The neurophysiological balance in Chiari type 1 malformation (CM1), tethered cord and related syndromes.

Scaioli Vidmer, Curzi Sergio, Saletti Veronica, Tripaldi Flavia, Esposito Silvia, Bulgheroni Sara, Laura Grazia Valentini, Riva Daria, Carlo Lazzaro Solero

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The Chiari malformation (CM) is a syndrome embodied in heterogeneous groups of malformations, spanning from the more benign and known, the CM1, to more complex syndromes such as the rare association with the tethered cord, as spinal lipomas, and the CM2, associated to open spina bifida. The clinical picture may be well expressed and detected at birth or even during intrauterine life, as for CM2, but in the other cases they may run a rather subtle clinical course. The diagnosis of these syndromes is driven by clinical examination and MRI, and it usually requires a multidisciplinary approach in order to plan the therapeutic strategies, such as surgery. Among the diagnostic investigations, the imaging techniques represent the most useful, for their capabilities to detect subclinical lesions, such as syringomyielia and lipoma; the urological investigation is useful to evaluate the urogenital dysfunctions. The neurophysiological investigations represent a non invasive diagnostic procedure to investigate the peripheral nerve, the spinal cord, the brainstem functionalities and more higher brain functions; the nerve conduction studies and the cranial reflexes, the brainstem (BAEP) and the somatosensory (SEPs) evoked potentials (EPs), alone or in combination, can be used for the diagnosis, follow-up and intraoperative monitoring. The most useful diagnostic tools in CM1 are likely represented by the brainstem auditory evoked potentials (BAEPs) and the blink-reflex (BR), while the usefulness of SEPs is still doubtful and debated; in CM2 and tethered cord the neurophysiological techniques can be combined in different ways in order to make a functional balance and to answer specific questions. BAEPs and BR can be useful to investigate the brain stem functionality and SEP to evaluate whether the ascending sensory pathway to the cortex can be hampered at some level; the visual EPs are particularly useful to evaluate the integrity of posterior visual pathway and visual cortex in the case of associated hydrocephalus. In the tethered cord, both nerve conduction study and somatosensory evoked potentials (SEPs) are useful to evaluate motor and sensory dysfunction of the lombosacral roots and nerves and spinal cord for their capability to detect subclinical impairment of conduction along the sensory and motor pathway. Finally, last but not the least, the neurophysiological techniques are remarkably useful during surgery; the intraoperative monitoring (IOM) by means of electromyography and direct nerve stimulation and recordings are able to detect early nerve damage, minimize nerve lesions and optimise the surgical techniques. In the operated children with incomplete removal of lipoma and/or persistent tethering, the recordings of SEP and BAEP are useful to demonstrate a conduction deterioration along the ascending sensory pathway due to increasing tethering of the spinal cord due to somatic growth.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNeurological Sciences
Volume32 Suppl 3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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