How is Chiari malformation diagnosed?
Sometimes, Chiari malformations appear on prenatal ultrasounds before a baby is born. An ultrasound is an imaging test that uses sound waves to produce pictures of soft tissues.
To diagnose Chiari malformation, doctors perform a complete physical exam. Your doctor will test your movement, balance and sensation in your hands and feet. Doctors also check for memory problems, learning issues and cognitive delays. To see a detailed image of the brain and spinal cord, your doctor may order:
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): This imaging test can show soft tissues and bones. It can evaluate the brain, spinal cord and cerebrospinal fluid. MRI can show the extent that the cerebellum is extending into the spinal canal.
- Cine MRI: This test is similar to a traditional MRI, but it allows your doctor to see the flow pattern of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) around the base of the skull.
- Computed tomography (CT): A CT scan helps detect problems in bones at the base of the skull and the spinal column.
- X-ray: Doctors use X-rays to check for bone abnormalities in the skull and neck.