Pressure Headaches & Other Symptoms After A Car Accident? You Need To Know About Chiari

If you were injured in a car accident and have been having a lot of different symptoms, none of which seem related to the accident or to each other, you may have a Chiari malformation. Here's what you need to know.

What a Chiari Malformation Is

A Chiari malformation is when a portion of the lower part of your brain extends too far below the skull and into the spinal cord. It can be caused by a congenital defect or acquired. Sometimes, the person will have symptoms right away, but many will not have symptoms until later in life, especially after the symptoms are triggered by a head or neck injury, such as from a car accident, or a lumbar puncture during medial treatment.

Symptoms of Chiari

The most common symptom of Chiari is a pressure headache at the back of the head which is made worse when you do things like cough or sneeze. Other symptoms of Chiari can include dizziness, weakness, fatigue, numbness, tingling, memory loss, trouble swallowing, heart palpitations, and pain anywhere in the body.

The symptoms largely depend on the way the Chiari affects the cerebral spinal fluid, brain stem, and spinal cord. For example, if the vagus nerve is compressed by the malformation, it can cause abdominal problems including gastroparesis, which is when your stomach is paralyzed. Some people only have headaches, while other people have many other symptoms.

Diagnosis and Treatment

As you can see, it can be difficult to diagnose Chiari, but a diagnosis can be reached after head and neck MRIs. If you have any of the above symptoms, ask your doctor to send you for an MRI. If you are diagnosed, you will need to see a neurosurgeon. There is no cure for Chiari, but the malformation can be decompressed through surgery.

Congenital or Acquired?

It can be difficult to determine whether a Chiari malformation is congenital or acquired. Chiari malformations are diagnosed through MRI imaging. The only way to know whether or not it was congenital but asymptomatic is to have previous MRI images to look at. Even so, if an injury exacerbated or aggravated a congenital Chiari malformation, you may still be awarded damages in a personal injury lawsuit or a workers compensation claim.

If you do get a diagnosis of Chiari malformation and you didn't have any symptoms before the car accident, speak with your lawyer about compensation for the medical bills and pain and suffering. It's important to understand that, once triggered, Chiari malformation is a progressive condition, which means it will worsen at some point in the future. Keep this in mind if the person who injured you tries to settle out of court. 

For help with your case, contact a personal injury lawyer