Did Your Car Accident Cause Chiari Malformation?

If you have recently been in a car accident and now suffer from symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, numbness in your hands and feet, and/or balance problems, your accident may have caused an anatomical change in your brain called Chiari malformation (CM).

Some people are born with CM and it was once believed that it could not be caused by trauma but that symptoms of existing CM could be triggered by trauma. More recent research has found that whiplash can cause the injury.

What is Chiari Malformation

In CM the cerebellum, which is the bottom of the brain, protrudes through an opening in the base of the skull. Every person with CM has a unique combination of symptoms. For some it causes minor problems but for others it can be quite severe.

CM can be seen on an MRI. Symptoms can include:

  • Headaches
  • Neck pain
  • Numbness of hands and feet
  • Tingling or pain in the arms
  • Difficulty walking
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Speech problems
  • Vision problems
  • Abnormal breathing

For those with debilitating symptoms, surgery is required to correct the herniation of the brain.

Whiplash Can Cause Chiari Malformation

Most cases of CM are congenital, meaning something you are born with. It can also develop as a result of other disorders, or after brain or spinal surgery. Until recently, when an accident victim developed CM symptoms, it was believed that the victim must have already had CM and just didn’t know it, and that the trauma activated the symptoms. Researchers decided to look into whether whiplash might actually cause the structural defect. A study published in the journal Brain Injury, in 2010, found that 23% of subjects with whiplash had CM as opposed to about 5% of those without trauma. The study looked at 1,200 patients.

If you have been hurt in a car accident, learn more about potential injuries as well as your legal rights by reading Back and Neck Injuries Caused by Car Accidents.