Chiari Decompression

About 300,000 Americans are diagnosed with a Chiari malformation—a structural defect at the base of the skull where brain tissue extends into the spinal canal. Often there typically are no symptoms, and the malformation is revealed when a diagnostic test is done for another reason.

With some types of Chiari malformation, it doesn’t appear until late childhood or when the person becomes an adult. Symptoms that can appear include:

  • Neck pain
  • Problems with balance or hand coordination
  • Numbness and tingling in the hands or feet
  • Dizziness or vision problems
  • Speech problems

In some cases where symptoms interfere with quality of life, decompression surgery may be recommended to relieve pressure on the brain.

The intent of goal of Chiari Decompression surgery is to reduce the pressure on the spinal cord. The neurosurgeon makes an incision in the back of the skull to remove a piece of the skull. This may be enough to relieve the pressure. However, if further decompression is needed, additional tissue involving the “dura” is opened which covers and protects the brain and spinal cord. Most patients have relief from symptoms from the surgery.


Scott B. Phillips, MD is a neurological spine surgeon based in San Antonio who specializes in minimally invasive spine surgery, artificial disc replacement, carpal tunnel surgery, spinal cord stimulator implants and other brain disorders, including brain tumor and chiari decompression. Patients travel from Bexar County, San Marcos and South Texas, including Corpus Christi, Kingsville, McAllen and Brownsville for treatment of back pain, neck pain, brain tumor, carpal tunnel and epilepsy-related neurological problems. Dr. Scott Phillips provides a second opinion for back surgery and neck surgery, and emphasizes non-surgical treatment options in advance of spine surgery. Where surgery is necessary because of a herniated disc or spinal instability, Dr. Phillips uses minimally invasive spine surgery techniques and advanced technology like the artificial disc to help patients relieve pain symptoms and get back to activity. This spine neurosurgeon expertise enables many patients to have outpatient spine surgery and be home the same day. This educational web site at has home remedies for back pain, neck pain and herniated disc. This site also has our philosophy of care about controversial treatments like laser spine surgery.