New methods for the evaluation and treatment of craniofacial dysostosis-associated cerebellar tonsillar herniation

J. A. Fearon, D. M. Swift, D. A. Bruce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Herniation of the cerebellar tonsils may occur in children with craniofacial dysostosis (e.g., Apert, Carpenter, Crouzon, Jackson-Weiss, Pfeiffer, and Saethre-Chotzen syndromes), occasionally, with serious sequelae. Cerebellar tonsillar herniation is probably acquired in children affected with craniofacial dysostosis, raising the question, How should we be screening for this anomaly? This retrospective clinical study was undertaken to review the authors' series of what they believe to be a new surgical treatment for craniofacial dysostosis-associated cerebellar tonsillar herniation and to report their experience with a new screening technique. In an attempt to find a low-cost alternative to the use of routine magnetic resonance imaging for identifying cerebellar tonsillar herniation, the authors instituted sagittal reformatting of three-dimensional computed tomographic scans through the foramen magnum. Scans are considered positive if soft tissue is noted to extend below the foramen magnum, and all positive scans are further evaluated by magnetic resonance imaging with flow studies of the cerebrospinal fluid. These sagittally reformatted scans add no additional cost, and they seem to be highly sensitive in screening for cerebellar tonsillar herniation. Over a 13-month period, five children (one with Apert syndrome; four with Crouzon syndrome) with craniofacial dysostosis-associated cerebellar tonsillar herniation underwent isolated anterior cranial vault remodeling to treat observed brachycephaly (standard neurosurgical posterior decompression was not performed). All patients (mean age, 6 years; range, 2 to 14 years) were without the symptoms typically associated with cerebellar tonsillar herniation. Only those patients who had preoperative and postoperative magnetic resonance imaging scans were included in this review. All patients showed some improvement by the authors' magnetic imaging criteria after anterior cranial vault remodeling. Despite these findings, the authors recommend that until the anterior approach can be further studied, symptomatic children should undergo standard posterior neurosurgical decompression. The authors speculate that the presence of cerebellar tonsillar herniation may be a relative indication for decompressing the cranial vault in the craniofacial dysostoses. In addition, they propose that the descriptive anatomic term "cerebellar tonsillar herniation" be substituted for the misnomer "Chiari malformation" in these children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1855-1861
Number of pages7
JournalPlastic and reconstructive surgery
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jan 1 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


Dive into the research topics of 'New methods for the evaluation and treatment of craniofacial dysostosis-associated cerebellar tonsillar herniation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this