INTRODUCTION: We hypothesize that surgical decompression for Chiari malformation type 1 (CM-1) is associated with statistically significant decrease in tonsillar pulsatility and that the degree of pulsatility can be reliably assessed regardless of the experience level of the reader.
METHODS: An Institutional Review Board (IRB)-approved Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)-compliant retrospective study was performed on 22 children with CM-1 (8 males; mean age 11.4 years) who had cardiac-gated true-FISP sequence and phase-contrast cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) flow imaging as parts of routine magnetic resonance (MR) imaging before and after surgical decompression. The surgical technique (decompression with or without duraplasty) was recorded for each patient. Three independent radiologists with different experience levels assessed tonsillar pulsatility qualitatively and quantitatively and assessed peritonsillar CSF flow qualitatively. Results were analyzed. To evaluate reliability, Fleiss kappa for multiple raters on categorical variables and intra-class correlation for agreement in pulsatility ratings were calculated.
RESULTS: After surgical decompression, the degree of tonsillar pulsatility appreciably decreased, confirmed by t test, both qualitatively (p values <0.001, <0.001, and 0.045 for three readers) and quantitatively (amount of decrease/p value for three readers 0.7 mm/<0.001, 0.7 mm/<0.001, and 0.5 mm/0.022). There was a better agreement among the readers in quantitative assessment of tonsillar pulsatility (kappa 0.753-0.834), compared to qualitative assessment of pulsatility (kappa 0.472-0.496) and qualitative assessment of flow (kappa 0.056 to 0.203). Posterior fossa decompression with duraplasty led to a larger decrease in tonsillar pulsatility, compared to posterior fossa decompression alone.
CONCLUSION: Tonsillar pulsatility in CM-1 is significantly reduced after surgical decompression. Quantitative assessment of tonsillar pulsatility was more reliable across readers than qualitative assessments of tonsillar pulsatility or CSF flow.