Dr. Simon- M.S. was unaware that from birth, she had a rare brain condition known as Chiari malformation, until she took a fall while skiing that triggered intermittent headaches and sensations of intense head pressure in the back of her head near her neck. The episodes, which were also characterized by dizziness, and feeling tired and “foggy”, lasted from two to five minutes. They happened without warning, with no predictable pattern or timing, and eventually were occurring daily. Most disturbing to M.S., at night she perceived a sense of burning in her head and was having intermittent numbness in her feet and hands.
Both M.S. and her primary care physician initially thought her symptoms could have been related to allergies but when they persisted, her doctor advised her to see a neurosurgeon. Dr. Scott Simon, who performed a thorough neuro-cognitive evaluation and ordered CT scans and MRIs which revealed that she had Chiari malformation.
Chiari malformation is a condition that occurs when the cerebellum is pushed down through the opening in the bottom of the skull, compressing the brain stem, diminishing the flow of spinal fluid in the skull. Chiari malformation occurs in one of 2,000 people; mostly women. For many, the condition may not be detected until after age 30. Characteristic symptoms are severe headaches that are often made worse by neck extension, neck pain, numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, a sense of pressure in the head and trouble with balance.
Dr. Simon recommended that M.S. undergo Chiari surgery in order to enlarge the opening at the back of the skull to decompress the brain. M.S. underwent surgery at Stamford Hospital on November 30, 2009. She stayed in the hospital for three days. It took two weeks until she was again steady on her feet, and during her recovery she was very sensitive to the touch on her head. She took it easy for the following month before returning to work but her headaches were gone. Now she has resumed her regular workout routine which includes jogging, fitness classes and weight training, and no longer worries about having a sudden attack.